TO: VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN
RE: RYAN DEBATE PREP
Last week President Obama underperformed against Romney for one reason: He tried to engage in a debate. You must not repeat his mistake.
The Republican ticket has a fundamental weakness: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan cannot, under any circumstances, be honest about their agenda. They have to lie. But your job on Thursday night is not to scrupulously point out every one of your opponent’s falsehoods. (The voters won’t believe anyone is that much of a liar; they’ll think you are lying.) Your job is to deliver the following message: Paul Ryan is hiding something.
To this end, the most damaging statement Ryan has made thus far in the campaign is what he said on Fox News regarding his tax plan: “I don’t have the…It would take me too long to go through all of the math.” This excuse is one that voters are quite familiar with in their daily lives. It signals that the person making it can’t tell you what he’s really up to. And it’s weak.
On Thursday night, there is ZERO chance that Paul Ryan will say anything substantively factual, so don’t waste your time sweating the details. If you do, Ryan will initiate an endless round of rhetorical three card monte, leaving the voters confused. Instead, simply lay out the president’s policies — clearly and succinctly — and then say that Ryan is going to be evasive. Use the Fox News quote. Use Romney’s stonewalling on his tax returns. Use the “47%” remark (which Romney made behind closed doors to a bunch of hedge fund managers). Above all, don’t get in the weeds with statistics and sources. Forget that the CBO even exists. You have only one real source in this debate: Bill Clinton. Quote him ad nauseam. But refute Ryan’s most egregious lies only after laying the groundwork that Ryan is an untrustworthy person.
The bottom line: Your main goal is to get voters to wonder what it is that Paul Ryan doesn’t want them to know. Human imagination is your greatest ally.