After the first debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, there were many sighs and groans over the fact that the president did not hit hard on Mitt's 47 percent remarks. Sometimes, timing is everything.
The last question of last night's debate was this: What misconception does the public have about you, and give examples of why they're wrong. Mitt played this perfectly, painting himself as the compassionate, churchgoing man who was just a victim of mean Barack and his personal attacks. He spent a lot of time trying to convince the audience that he was a good man because he had faith in God, and he cared about everyone.
Obama's response began with a direct answer: that he's been painted as a guy who sees government as the answer to everything. But after about 40 seconds, he paused, and pivoted. Here's what he said:
I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.
Folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives. Veterans who've sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country's dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don't make enough income.
And I want to fight for them. That's what I've been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.
When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn't a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That's why I'm asking for your vote and that's why I'm asking for another four years.
And on that note, Barack Obama closed the debate with the very last word, leaving the term 47 percent ringing in his audience's ears. It was a devasting, understated and effective close.
Lawrence O'Donnell zoomed straight in on it in his interview with David Axelrod right afterwards. Axelrod conceded that it was definitely something the president wanted to engage on, but there was no plan to leave that as the last word, so to speak. There's no question, however, that it was effective and resonated. Watch the lines on the little peoplemeter CNN was running. They start flat and rise as he wraps that statement up.
Well played, Mr. President.
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