John Kerry to play Romney in Obama debate prep

Mitt Romney and John Kerry
Mitt Romney, left, and John Kerry.

President Obama has recruited Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to play the part of Mitt Romney in mock debates ahead of the three presidential debates in October, the Obama campaign has confirmed to CBS News.

The Washington Post first reported the news. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's chief strategist, told the Post that Kerry was an "obvious choice."

"There is no one that has more experience or understanding of the presidential debate process than John Kerry," he said. "He's an expert debater who has a fundamental mastery of a wide range of issues, including Mitt Romney's Massachusetts."

Many political observers (including this one) have noted the similarities between Kerry, the Democrats' presidential nominee in 2004, and Romney. Both men are extremely wealthy, arguably somewhat-awkward Massachusetts politicians with great hair, strong links to the political establishment and a reputation for flip-flopping. Like Kerry, Romney had to overcome primary challenges from rivals who appealed more directly to his party's base. Like Romney, Kerry reached the general election in large part because he was seen as the most electable option, not necessarily the most inspiring one.

Perhaps more importantly, Kerry is intimately familiar with the record and rhetoric of the former Massachusetts governor and Senate candidate. He is also widely seen as a strong debater: Kerry performed well in his debates against former President George W. Bush in 2004, and the Post notes that he was a "star debater" at Yale University.

Romney has not yet tapped a stand-in for Mr. Obama in his mock debates. In the 2008 campaign, Sen. John McCain's stand-in for Mr. Obama was Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) - who is now seen as one of the leading contenders to be Romney's running mate.