The casting call is over: President Barack Obama has cast 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to play Mitt Romney in rehearsals for the critical series of debates.
Hey, it’s a good choice: both Kerry and Romney were for it before they were against it.
But there are quite serious reasons why it’s a good choice. Kerry knows Romney’s style quite well:
President Obama has tapped Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to play Republican Mitt Romney in mock debate rehearsals, Obama campaign officials and the senator’s office confirmed Monday.
Kerry will help Obama prepare for among the most consequential events of his reelection campaign — the three fall debates against Romney. As the senior senator from Massachusetts, Kerry has studied Romney’s career and campaign style for nearly two decades and has first-hand knowledge of his record as governor.
Kerry has long been considered one of the Democratic Party’s most skilled debaters, and his performances in more than 25 debates in the 2004 race earned plaudits. Some credited his strong debates against President George W. Bush with tightening the race in the closing weeks of the 2004 campaign.
It is his perspective on Romney, though, that could be especially valuable for Obama. Kerry was a key surrogate on behalf of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) when he defeated Romney in 1994. And Kerry closely observed Romney’s successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign, where his performance in debates against Democrat Shannon O’Brien were believed to have helped him win.
“There is no one that has more experience or understanding of the presidential debate process than John Kerry,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist. “He’s an expert debater who has a fundamental mastery of a wide range of issues, including Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts. He’s the obvious choice.”
In his own presidential campaign, Kerry faced similar challenges as Romney does now. He struggled to deal with his aloofness and vast personal wealth as President Bush tried to portray him as out-of-touch with everyday Americans, while the Republicans labeled Kerry a “flip-flopper” for a series of policy shifts.
Kerry is known to be thorough and its clear some of the things for which he’ll have to prepare Obama to be ready.
For instance, Romney is sure to use a line that has now become trite but it worked for Ronald Reagan: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Or “There you go again.” Romney will be armed with zingers. And if past debate peformances were any indication be supremely prepared. Romney will do his homework.. And he’s likely to say something about Obama’s flashy style as a speaker to undercut Obama’s strength there. The debater who’ll “train” with Obama is important and Kerry seems like a solid selection.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.