Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs attempted to dismiss the now-widespread assessment that Mitt Romney won Wednesday night’s first presidential debate in an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
“Governor Romney had a masterful theatrical performance just this past week,” Gibbs said, echoing the Democratic talking point that Romney only won on style, not substance.
Gibbs stuck to that characterization, again referring to a “masterful theatrical performance” later in the show in what appeared to be a strategy to both dismiss Romney’s first debate on merits while also keeping the bar high for his next debate in a bid to manage expectations.
Democrats have accused Romney of misrepresenting his positions and outright lying during the 90-minute showdown, and Gibbs repeated the point, arguing that the “underpinnings and foundations of that performance were fundamentally dishonest.”
What roughly 70 million Americans watched Wednesday was “a clone that looked like Mitt Romney,” Gibbs said.
The Obama strategist also leaped on Romney’s line that he would cut government subsidies for PBS, despite an affinity for the Sesame Street character Big Bird.
“The only thing he outlined that he would cut in the budget is Big Bird,” Gibbs said. “He’s taken the battle straight to Sesame Street, and let Wall Street run hog wild.”
Asked to respond to Vice President Joe Biden’s assertion this week that the middle class has been “buried” the last four years, Gibbs shifted the blame for middle-class distress to former President George W. Bush’s economic policies.
“Well, we've been digging out from what was an avalanche of bad economic decisions over the past eight years during the Bush administration,” Gibbs said, refusing to classify Biden’s remark as a gaffe.