By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
While President Obama talks about Big Bird on the campaign trail, the real topic begging for answers is what happened in Benghazi on September 11.
But the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans amid what appears to be insufficient security is not something this administration wants to talk about.
Consider this: Up until today, there had been no White House press briefing for more than two weeks.
Meanwhile, it took the FBI three weeks to arrive on the scene in Benghazi after that deadly attack, allegedly for safety reasons. Three weeks.
This has rightfully raised concerns about sensitive documents being left unsecured at the compound. The State Department insists no classified documents were left on the premises. Really? A CNN reporter walked right into the consul and retrieved the ambassador's journal three days after the attack. What else was left behind?
The administration continues to change its story about what happened and why. Initially it said the attacks were a reaction to a film made by an American mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
More than a week later the administration called it a terrorist attack, potentially linked to al Qaeda, after it was learned a Libyan security official warned of a possible attack three days before it happened.
Now we learn that repeated requests for additional security were ignored.
Finally, the Benghazi timeline shows there were no protests before the attack.
There's a reason the president doesn't want to talk about Benghazi: The way it was handled before and after the murders is a disgrace.
Expect Mitt Romney to ask the president about all this when a future debate turns to foreign policy.
Here’s my question to you: Why won't President Obama talk about Benghazi, instead of Big Bird?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
If President Obama had been a Broadway show last night, it would have closed after one performance.
Even the president's staunchest supporters were baffled by his lackluster effort.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked, "What was he doing?"
Democratic strategist James Carville said, "Romney came in with a chainsaw."
Commentator Andrew Sullivan said, "This was a disaster... He choked... He may even have lost the election tonight."
CNN did a poll of watchers right after the debate that showed by a margin of almost 3-to-1 – 67% to 25% - that they thought Mitt Romney won the first debate.
What happened to the mesmerizing president who captivated audiences in Berlin and Cairo more than three years ago?
Where was the visionary who saw a path forward for the country that was so compelling he became the first African-American president in our history?
Watching the debate last night, I got the impression Obama didn't want to be there. He seemed annoyed at times and disengaged. And he allowed Romney to get back in the race big time.
And when the debates shift to foreign policy, it's not likely to get any easier for the president.
The Middle East is a tinderbox. The murder of an American ambassador in Libya goes begging for an explanation as to why repeated requests for additional security at our consulate in Benghazi were turned down. And the White House won't answer questions about it except to say the FBI is conducting an investigation.
That's not nearly enough.
Here’s my question to you: Why did President Obama do so poorly at last night's debate?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Mitt Romney will kick President Barack Obama's butt in Wednesday night's debate.
Christie says he thinks Romney will turn the election "upside down" and that it will be a "brand-new race" after the showdown in Denver.
It’s no surprise that Romney's people stepped away from Christie's predictions pretty quickly. They're trying to lower expectations, which is how candidates usually approach debates.
But let's suppose Christie is right. What would it take for Romney to win the debate and change the storyline of this election?
With more than 50 million people expected to tune in, many think Wednesday night is Romney's last best chance to turn the race around. He's been practicing for this debate for months, on top of the practice he got in the almost two dozen primary debates.
But here's the challenge: Romney needs to come off as likable and authentic and show that he can connect with voters. We've been hearing this for months, and apparently it's a real challenge for him.
A piece in The Daily Beast suggests the only thing Romney can do to change the race in a meaningful way is to get specific about his ideas. So far neither Romney nor Obama has been willing to do that. The voters are simply left wondering
Others say Romney needs to make Obama come off as condescending, like when he told Hillary Clinton she was "likable enough" in a 2008 debate.
Romney has reportedly been practicing zingers to use against the president. And while powerful sound bites get lots of play in the days after a debate, it's questionable if a few good one-liners will be enough to catapult him into the White House.
Here’s my question to you: What can Mitt Romney do to win the first debate?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
Here's something that ought to give Camp Romney heartburn.
There's a poll out that finds the Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, is less popular than George W. Bush.
This Bloomberg News survey shows the former president with a favorability rating of 46% compared to 43% for Romney.
Bush gets an unfavorable rating of 49%. Romney gets 50%.
Bush's favorables are also higher than Joe Biden, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party.
It's well-known that Romney's favorability numbers are lower than President Obama's. Many believe Romney - the mega-rich businessman who once tied his family dog to the roof of his car - just can't connect with a lot of voters; but less popular than George W. Bush?
For starters Romney and his campaign have done everything in their power to try to make Americans forget about George W. Bush and his eight years in office. Romney avoids mentioning the former president's name, and Bush was nowhere to be seen at the GOP Convention in Tampa.
That's because for many Americans Bush's presidency brings back bad memories of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the dismal response of the federal government to Hurricane Katrina, the conditions that allowed the financial crisis of 2008 to happen and on and on.
Just a few months ago a CNN/ORC Poll found Bush to be the least popular living ex-president.
But somehow he still gets higher favorable ratings than the Republican who wants to be president.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean for Mitt Romney if he's less popular than George W. Bush ?
As the clock ticks down to Election Day, the debates are the next big hurdle for the candidates.
Mitt Romney, who has had a rough few weeks to put it mildly, is under the most pressure to use the first presidential debate to turn this thing around. Some actually think October 3 is his last best chance.
Which is probably why he's been practicing a lot.
According to Politico, Romney recently did five mock debates in 48 hours. He's apparently told his advisers that it might be hard to win a debate against the president.
If you're on Mitt Romney's staff, the debates have got to make you at least a little nervous. Their candidate famously puts his foot in his mouth when he goes off prompter.
But the debates could also be a challenge for President Obama, who can give long-winded answers that sound more like a college lecture than a game plan for a second term. This is a man who once gave a 17-minute answer in a town hall meeting. The president can go on and on.
No surprise Team Obama was out lowering expectations this week, saying the president hasn't debated in four years, while Mitt Romney had lots of practice in the primaries.
We now know half the first debate in Denver will focus on the economy. Other topics will include health care, the role of government and governing. Pass the NoDoz.
Debates can be a defining moment for a presidential candidate, and October 3 will be huge.
Here’s my question to you: How much will the presidential debates matter?
Mitt Romney's latest unforced error has a lot of Republicans worried that his, and by extension, their, chances of winning this election are slipping away.
As Politico puts it, "If political campaigns have nine lives, nervous Republicans feel Romney has used up at least eight."
The latest gaffe comes courtesy of Romney's comments to a group of wealthy Republican donors in May when he said the 47% of Americans who support President Obama no matter what depend on the government for handouts and "believe they are victims."
The leaked video could damage Romney's support among some Republican voters like seniors or members of the military, not to mention Independents.
Which is why some Republicans, including Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, are distancing themselves from Romney's remarks.
All this comes after Romney's bungled and highly political response to the Middle East riots last week.
In her Wall Street Journal column, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan says the Romney campaign is incompetent:
"It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It's always been too small for the moment ... an intervention is in order. 'Mitt: this isn't working.'"
Noonan writes that Romney, who's not good at news conferences, should stick to speeches and they "have to be big."
She says he should surround himself with a posse of top Republicans every day: people like Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie to show he's not in this alone.
Here’s my question to you: What does Mitt Romney have to do to right the ship?
Mitt Romney may have done himself in.
At the very least, the Republican candidate for president likely damaged his chances of being elected by the way he reacted to the violence in Egypt and Libya.
Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast suggests Romney's response makes him "unfit" for the responsibility of running the country.
Sullivan lays out the reasons why he thinks Romney should be disqualified from being president.
Including Romney's knee-jerk judgments, based on ideology not reality, his inability to back down when he said something wrong and his argument that President Obama sympathized with the murderers of America's ambassador to Libya.
Criticizing America's Commander-in-Chief while U.S. interests were still under attack, and Americans were dying, comes off as amateur and un-presidential, and might just be political suicide for Romney.
It's times like these when an unguarded comment can leave a lasting impression.
Compare Romney's response to how the 1980 Republican candidates for president reacted to the Iran hostage crisis under President Carter's watch.
As The Atlantic points out, when news broke that an effort to rescue the American hostages from the Tehran embassy failed Ronald Reagan said, "This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united."
George H.W. Bush went even further, saying he "unequivocally" supported carter and it wasn't a time to "try to go one-up politically."
Mitt Romney has been around long enough to know better.
Here’s my question to you: Did Mitt Romney kill his own chances of becoming president with his reaction to the violence in Egypt and Libya?
It's been a long journey for Mitt Romney.
After six years of running, on Thursday night he will have what is probably his best chance to convince the American people that he should be their next president.
Although voters believe that Romney is best-equipped to deal with our ailing economy, the nation's top issue, it's been an uphill battle for him when it comes to connecting with these voters.
Over the past few days, other speakers - most effectively his wife, Ann - have made the case that Romney is much more than a rich and seemingly emotionless business executive with good hair.
But a lot of Americans still aren't convinced. They don't believe this guy with $200 million in the bank, offshore accounts and private tax returns understands what it's like to struggle.
With that in mind, Politico has some advice on how Romney can make the best use of his convention speech.
For starters, Romney should "go bold," which means not only pitching his own plans for fixing our problems but revealing some personal details he hasn't before.
That means things like his Mormon faith, his near-death experience in France or even what it was like to shut down a plant at Bain Capital.
Another suggestion is to "go light on the red meat." That's what Paul Ryan is for, as he so eloquently showed the nation Wednesday night.
Lastly, Romney could talk about his relationship with his father, George Romney. By giving some details - and showing some emotion - about what he learned from his father, Romney could show us a glimpse of the humanity that many have yet to see but that those close to him insist is there.
Here’s my question to you: How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?
They looked like two peas in a pod.
When Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday morning, some people thought they were seeing double.
Writing for the Daily Beast, Robin Givhan suggests Ryan could easily be mistaken for one of Romney's five sons.
She says that the Republican running mates - in their matching white shirts and black pants - lacked dazzle or texture.
She describes them as "two white guys defined by political expedience, professional uniforms and perfectly pomaded hair."
And it's not just their appearances that are similar.
Politico suggests Ryan could just be "Mitt squared." The writers say it's easy to see why Romney - the 65-year-old "numbers nerd" - wanted Ryan - the 42-year-old "budget wonk" - on the ticket with him.
Like Romney, Ryan isn't the most exciting speaker. It's possible Romney was looking more for a youthful double of himself than for someone to balance the ticket.
Speaking of doubles, consider these two back in high school.
In his Janesville, Wisconsin, high school, Ryan was voted "biggest brown noser" by his senior year classmates.
He was also the prom king and junior class president, not to mention an athlete and in the Latin club - a pretty well-rounded guy.
As for Romney, he attended a boys' prep school in Michigan, the state where his father was governor.
According to one classmate, Romney was in the glee club and the pep club and was chairman of the homecoming committee.
What he didn't do was play middle linebacker on the football team.
Here's my question to you: Who ranks higher on the charisma scale, Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan?
Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.
And we'd love to know where you're writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Mitt Romney went "bold"... doing what many conservatives wanted him to do in naming Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Many view the Ryan pick as a game-changing one, with both Republicans and Democrats cheering Romney's choice.
But it's yet to be seen if Ryan will make voters more - or less - likely to vote for Romney.
Ryan's weaknesses are pretty evident. His budget plan of drastic spending cuts includes significant changes to Social Security and Medicare. Try selling that to elderly voters in Florida.
It also gives Democrats ammunition to play on those same voters' fears, that the social programs they rely on could be threatened.
Plus, Ryan has virtually no experience in the private sector - just like President Obama. He has spent almost 14 years in Congress - a career politician at a time when America is sick of Washington.
But - Romney's selection of Ryan also carries plenty of benefits.
For starters, while voters are sick of Washington insiders, they tend to reward politicians who push for real change... see Barack Obama in 2008 or New Jersey's Chris Christie.
For Americans who grasp the critical nature of our skyrocketing national debt... now nearing $16 trillion... Ryan has a lot of appeal.
And if Mitt Romney is willing to embrace even some of Ryan's ideas... Pres. Obama won't be able to touch the GOP on government spending and deficits.
Ryan is also a clear plus for the party's base, many of whom have never really liked Romney. He appeals to crucial independent voters, Catholics and women too.
Most importantly, the choice of Ryan signals a clear choice for voters in November. More government versus less government. Runaway national debt versus painful fiscal responsibility. Ryan is a big gamble for Mitt Romney - but it's a bet he almost had to make.
Here's my question to you: How much will Paul Ryan help Mitt Romney's chances of winning?
Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 4 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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