Debate #1 Wrap Up: The Mormon Strikes Back
At last night’s first Presidential debate Mitt Romney ripped Barack Obama’s
bleeding beating heart out of his chest and forced him to take a bite of it as he lay writhing on the ground. Or maybe not; however, that’s how the media is spinning it. Obama’s performance was definitely weak though, and Romney’s was surprisingly adept. Let’s review what actually went on last night, shall we?
First of all, we know that the true loser of the night was Big Bird. Romney said he’d end PBS’s federal funding to balance the budget because as you know our budget deficit is gigantic because Gwen Ifill uses $168 billion a year in Medicaid subsidies and Elmo can’t stop ordering Aircraft careers. In a mostly forgettable debate, this moment of Mitt trash talking a muppet will go down as the highlight.
But what else did Romney do last night? Well he definitely was the aggressive one on stage: Romney seemed prepared to channel rage that has dominated the Republican Party since Obama took office and boy did he deliver. Infact, I’d say he looked far more pissed off than presidential. Romney also completely disavowed basically all of his financial policies and when challenged by Obama seemed to retort with a constant “nuh uh!” Still, his answers were easy to follow and he did a good job not looking like a jackass (something he has trouble accomplishing most of the time).
Professor Obama on the other hand was shaky. He really didn’t come alive until the second part of the debate, and even then he had trouble giving clear concise answers. It was also apparent, at least to this blogger, that the Obama team hadn’t properly prepped the President for what to do if Romney threw his own policies overboard to appear popular (which is of course just what Mittens did). Obama seemed to be playing defense all night, and missed some easy points like not directly saying that Romney’s economic policies are identical to those of George W. Bush.
The good news for Obama is that their next debate is town hall style, and since Romney is a weird wealthy humanoid robot, this is Obama’s turf. Obama knows how to connect, he just needs to remember how to lay out his policies while attacking Romney’s at the same time.
But when it comes down to it though, debates are mostly theater and tend not to be real game-changers. Sure, if someone really shines like Reagan did in 1980 or Clinton did in 1992, then it can be a huge boost to a campaign. And if someone is a really turd like Ford was in 1976 or Bush Sr. was in 1992, well then that can hurt an already ailing campaign. But this debate seemed different – Romney was on top, but he didn’t slaughter Obama nor did the President totally collapse. Indeed, Romney’s gaffe-a-minute September lowered expectations so far that assuming he didn’t use the term “snivveling middle class paupers” he would have won the debate.
Finally, let’s not forget that John Kerry was widely considered the winner of his first debate. How did that turn out for him?