Mitt Romney as Elmer Gantry and Monty Hall
After Mitt Romney's convincing debate performance on Wednesday night, Democrats went out of their way on Sunday morning to cast it as a disingenuous, Oscar-worthy act.
"I'm not going to take away from Mitt's masterful theatrical performance," said Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to President Obama's re-election campaign, putting a flourish on the campaign's main talking point across the Sunday shows. "He did a superb acting job. You know, he did everything but learn tap dance."
No one went further to make the point than David Axelrod, facing a three-journalist firing squad on "Face the Nation."
"I think [the president] went thinking this was going to be a discussion about this country's future and he was confronted with this kind of Gantry-esque performance on the other side," he said. "Just serially rewriting history before his eyes."
"What did you just say?" asked host Bob Schieffer.
"Gantry-esque," said Axelrod.
"As in Elmer Gantry, the fictional evangelist," said the 75-year-old Schieffer, without missing a beat, as Axelrod thanked him for clarifying.
(Burt Lancaster won his only Oscar, for Best Actor, portraying Gantry in a 1960 film adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel from 1926, which satirizes an unethical preacher.)
There were no big-name guests on Sunday morning, just the usual advisers and surrogates smattered across the shows.
On "Fox News Sunday," Maryland governor Martin O'Malley deployed a few noticeably canned lines against Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
"The fact of the matter is in this debate we saw Big Bird meet the big lie," said O'Malley--a line that the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign liked enough to email to reporters after the appearance.
O'Malley also said “Romney tells us to trust him but his plan is hiding behind Door Number Three with Carol Merrill and his undisclosed tax returns," to which host Chris Wallace replied, "I'm glad you practiced some lines for this.” (Carol Merrill was the model on "Let's Make a Deal.")
Ayotte said "the lines are great," but that Obama had significantly added to the debt during his presidency.
The other big topic was the declining unemployment rate, and the skeptical reaction from some conservatives to the president's good news.
Newt Gingrich called it "a significant help to the president," and Gibbs said former G.E. chairman Jack Welch had "single-handedly embarrassed himself for the entire day of Friday," after Welch went on a publicity tour to defend a Tweet questioning whether Obama's "Chicago" team had manipulated the numbers from the Labor Department.
"I assume, David, there's a number of people that believe the real unemployment report is somewhere in a safe in Nairobi with the President's Kenyan birth certificate," Gibbs said. "I mean this stuff is absolutely crazy."
Gingrich, for his part, said the Welch allegation "rings true to people."