Romney's No Muggle: Gibbs Thinks His Debate Performance Was Magical

Campaign flacks pump up expectations ahead of Tuesday's debate while other are still talking about Libya fallout. Also, Stephen Colbert explains Rachel Maddow's heavy influence on his show. 

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Robert Gibbs thinks Mitt Romney and David Blaine have more in common than you think. On CNN's State of the Union, Gibbs said Romney's performance in the first debate was "magical and theatrical," as if he pulled a rejuvenated campaign out of a hat. He said Romney, "walked away from a campaign he'd been running for more than six years previous to that." The next debate is on Tuesday, and it's hosted but State of the Union's Candy Crowley. Gibbs could use a lesson in lowering expectations, though, as he promised a strong performance from the President. "The president will be very forward looking, very conscious of making sure people understand the choice in this election," Gibbs said. "There's a very big difference in how each of these candidates sees the economy going forward. Whether we're going to invest in the middle class or cut taxes on the wealthy and hope it all trickles down." He should have said the President was just going to rehash his last debate performance. Although, the big promises strategy worked for Chris Christie.

David Axelrod went on Fox News Sunday to sort out Joe Biden's maybe conflicting report on the White House's Libya knowledge from the debate. Biden said, "we weren't told they wanted more security," which seemed to conflict with testimony given to Congress. "These requests go into the security professionals into the State Department," Axelrod explained. "It didn't come to the White House -- and that was what the vice president was responding to." Chris Wallace pressed Axelrod to see if the President took responsibility for everything that happened after the attacks. "At the top-line level, the president of the United States takes responsibility for everything that happens on his watch," Axelrod said. He also went after Romney for "cravenly" trying to use the Libya attacks to gain an edge on national security. "There's no doubt that he's working hard to exploit this issue," Axelrod said.

Ed Gillespie told State of the Union's Candy Crowley the Romney campaign is pretty confident they're going to be 2-0 after Tuesday night's debate. "The president can change his style, he can change his tactics, he can't change his record, he can't change his policies," Ed Gillespie said. Democrats have conceded that the President lost round one, but have accused Romney of abandoning the platforms he's campaigned on. "[Romney] is running on the same platform he's run on through the Republican Party primary," Gillespie said. "The country is a center-right country."

Gillespie was also on Fox News Sunday where he had this testy exchange with host Chris Wallace. When Wallace asked why it was okay for the Romney campaign to tell everyone about a 20 percent tax cut ("the candy") why they can't explain the details on how it would work ("the spinach"). Gillespie said they couldn't explain because we're in a "campaign environment" right now. "To start negotiating in a campaign environment, you’re going to lock in Republicans, you’re going to lock in Democrats," Gillespie said. When Wallace pointed out that dangling a 20 percent cut locks them into a 20 percent cut, Gillespie called it a "broad principle." He then tried to explain how it would work, in a broad way. "What we have said is that we are going to pay for it with these, by limiting deductions and loopholes – and, by the way, making sure for the middle class, that protecting the home mortgage deduction and other important deductions for them, but at the high end you would eliminate deductions and, you know, a lot of special interest loopholes that would allow you to bring down the rate 20 percent," Gillespie said. "Six different studies have said this is entirely doable." Wallace then points out that those studies are all from right-leaning, partisan blogs and think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute. "I would say it is a right-leaning think tank," Gillespie said. "That doesn't make it not credible." There is a video released by a pro-DNC group of the exchange:

Rob Portman went on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous (but guest-hosted by Jake Tapper) to say he's confident of Romney's chances to win Ohio, but even is he doesn't it won't rule out a Romney win. "He can probably win the presidency without Ohio, but I wouldn’t want to take the risk," Portman said. "No Republican has." He said the race is now "dead even" in Ohio right now, but that "momentum is on our side." He praised the grassroots efforts of the Romney campaign in Ohio. "I’ve never seen this kind of enthusiasm or energy on the ground," Portman said. "It’s turning our way."

Beau Biden is pretty sure his dad won the debate because the biggest criticism is that his dad was smiling too much. At least that's what he told Jake Tapper on This Week. "Any time the other side, Karl Rove or folks on the far right are going after my father for smiling too much, you know that's a victory," said Biden. "This isn't, Jake, about how much my father smiled or how many gallons of water that the congressman drank nervously on that stage. It's about speaking directly to the American people about very important facts," Biden said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CBS's Face the Nation the White House has "been misleading us" on what happened in Libya because it doesn't fit their pre-determined "narrative" of what's going on in the Middle East. "My belief is that was known by the administration within 24 hours," Graham said. "They're trying to sell a narrative, quite frankly, that the Mideast, the wars are receding and al Qaeda has been dismantled. And to admit that our embassy has been attacked by al Qaeda operatives and Libya - leading from behind - didn't work, I think undercuts that narrative," Graham said. "They never believed the media would investigate. Congress was out of session. This caught up with them. I think they've been misleading us and it finally caught up with them." In a reversal, Graham accused the Obama administration of politicizing the event. "They're very political when it comes to foreign policy," Graham charged. "When something goes bad, they deny, they deceive and they delay... The truth is the foreign policy choices of President Obama is allowing the region to come unraveled."

Darrell Issa said on Face the Nation that the State Department is sitting on $2.2 billion in funds that could go to beefing up embassy security, but he accused the Obama administration of refusing to spend it. The reason they won't use the funds, according to Issa, is they don't want to project the appearance of needing more security. "The fact is, they [the State Department.] are making the decision not to put the security in because they don't want the presence of security," Issa said. "That is not how you do security."

On a lighter note, Stephen Colbert appeared on Meet the Press to give David Gregory some tips on how to properly host a political talk show. (We kid! We kid! Don't hurt us, Gregory goons.) Colbert revealed he tries to explain to his guests that the person on camera is an "active idiot" who is "willfully ignorant of what you know and care about." He tells guests, "please honestly disabuse me of my ignorance, and we'll have a great time." Sometimes it's not enough, though. Former Sen. Bob Kerry didn't pick up that it was an act during his appearance in 2005. "And we were about three minutes into a seven-minute interview. And I don't know what I said, but he turned to me and he said, 'What the hell are you talking about?'" Colbert said. "But in the middle of the interview, I couldn't explain to him what it was. ... And then he just [took the] mic off and then left as soon as the interview was over. So I hope at some point someone explained to him that I was just fooling, senator. And I'm very sorry." At one point during the interview, when Colbert was working in character, he gave Gregory his thoughts on Romney's post-debate bounce. "He is on a rocket ride to plausible at this point," Colbert said. "Did you watch?" Gregory said he did. "What was it like?  I didn't see it." Colbert asked. "I don't really watch the news so much," Colbert added. "You don't?" Gregory seemed confused. "I come in around 6:30 and then I just say the opposite of whatever Rachel Maddow said the night before," Colbert explained.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.