With the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in just three days, the media have been doing their darnedest to lower expectations for the President's performance.
Doing his part Sunday was New York magazine's John Heilemann who said on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, "Barack Obama's not a very good debater. He lost almost every debate that he debated with Hillary Clinton" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Everyone here is aware on the Romney team and the Obama team: Barack Obama's not a very good debater. He lost almost every debate that he debated with Hillary Clinton.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: What does that mean though, not a good debater?
HEILEMANN: Well, if you watched him against Hillary Clinton, that was the worst moment of all, but I think on every metric…
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: On substance.
HEILEMAN: On substance, on everything else. He was not, he did not, we don't look back on the 2008 primary and say, “He beat Hillary Clinton.” You can’t think of a debate that he won.
Well, you can certainly think of a debate Hillary lost, and badly. Politico reported October 31, 2007:
We now know something that we did not know before: When Hillary Clinton has a bad night, she really has a bad night.
In a debate against six Democratic opponents at Drexel University here Tuesday, Clinton gave the worst performance of her entire campaign.
It was not just that her answer about whether illegal immigrants should be issued driver's licenses was at best incomprehensible and at worst misleading.
It was that for two hours she dodged and weaved, parsed and stonewalled.
Three months later, Obama apparently did extremely well in a highly-watched brawl with Clinton in South Carolina.
Beyond this, the former junior senator from Illinois did quite well against John McCain in their three debates.
As such, all this chatter about Obama being a poor debater seems to be the media assisting the White House in toning down expectations.
This way, if he wins Wednesday, they can gush and fawn over his "surprisingly good" performance.
On the other hand, if he loses, it was expected and therefore nothing to make a big deal about.
If there's anything this White House knows how to do it's manage expectations.
Fortunately for them, the media are always willing to do their part.