The Czar won’t waste your time recapping the debate point by point; neither Obama nor Romney said anything new or startling. The questions were allegedly all about domestic policy, unemployment, taxes, healthcare, and the role of government in a citizen’s life; that said, most of the time was spent by each candidate refuting the other’s common talkpoints about himself. No, Romney is not proposing a tax increase. No, Obama is not dismissive of Republicans. And so on.
Moderator Jim Lehrer served only to ask an initial question, and then assumed moderation consisted solely of weird grunting noises and random syllables. That was fine, because both the President and the Governor avoided interrupting each other, and generally let the other finish a complete sentence.
Also absent was a lot of speechifying. You know how in debates the moderator asks a question, and then the candidate quickly changes to a long-winded monologue about the common person? Not really anything over the top tonight. Thank God: the two typically addressed the question and moved on.
So, here is our summary (which we are confident will meet with some rebuke):
Obama’s Strengths: The President handled the opening question on the middle class quite well, while Romney seemed to struggle to explain his position. Also, the President did very well when he attacked Romney on a lack of specificity, openly wondering if Romney’s reluctance to explain himself was because his ideas were too good for the average American to hear. This definitely will encourage suspicion among undecided voters about Romney. A very slick move.
Obama’s Weaknesses: The grimacing smiles whenever Romney nailed him on a fact were off-putting in an Al Gore huffing and puffing kind of way. Also, the Czar picked up on a fair amount of rambling; not quite the stammering that shows when the President is on thin ice, but more of an intellectual stumbling as if revealing that a Romney comment was something the President had not actually considered: you could see Obama processing it in his head, looking for a weakness and not finding it right away.
The President also did not anticipate the amount of verbal judo that Romney employed, telling anecdotes and building examples and citing studies—only to have Romney use those same anecdotes, examples, and studies to kick out the President’s arguments. The President looked quite uncomfortable, and not his usual gosh-darn jokey self with an audience. To quote Friend of the Gormogons Jonah Goldberg: “Congratulations MSM, your failure to ask the president hard questions for 4 years has left him soft and unprepared.” Regardless of your voting position, or whether you thought the President did great, there is much truth in that statement.
Romney’s Strengths: The governor showed an amazing command of the facts, weaving dollars and percentages and statistics and business strategy into a cohesive mix. He also used the First, Second, Finally structure to many of his arguments that resonate with voters who want simple, direct answers.
As stated earlier, Romney was adept and comfortable at using Obama’s arguments against him, citing how a hospital in Cleveland, lauded by Obama for its ingenuity, debunks the Obamacare model. Or when Obama stated that he did not raise taxes on 97% of small businesses, Romney explained that the 3% that suffered employ 50% of small business employees. Or when Obama stated that he saved $716 billion from Medicare, Romney explained—and finally the President did not deny—that it was only taken to fund Obamacare and was already producing detrimental effects in hospitals across the country.
And well done for hitting the popular tropes of the day! When Romney accused the President of burying the middle class for four years, that was an obvious potshot taken at Joe Biden’s expense; there was no way the President could respond without looking like a dope. And when Romney cited the unpopularity of Obamacare, or how it was railroaded through Congress, or stressed how despite all these alleged tax cuts for the middle class, the middle class still has less money—this is exactly what independents are crowing about. The price of gas, the price of food, the price of energy—all increased dramatically under the President, who is promising four more years of this. The President did not respond to these accusations, because he knows full well that this is what independents hate about his administration.
Also, Romney seems to have finally put Romneycare to bed: he successfully rebuked all of the popular attacks tonight, which he could have (should have) done during the Republican debates. Obama had quite a few specific attacks, but Romney disarmed each one.
We have heard much that Romney has been really drilling for this debate; it showed.
Romney’s Weaknesses: The Czar hopes to play against Romney in high stakes poker one day. When the President said something Romney could flip against him, he grinned eagerly. When the President began pointing out unanswered questions about the Romney-Ryan plan, the governor would squint and almost appear to well up with tears. Knock that off. Simply stand and look at your opponent: do not tip your hand.
Also, there were a few moments in which Romney could have been more on point. He meandered here and there—not fatally—but bordered on looking irritated. Fortunately, these moments were quite few, and overall he looked nervous but confident in his self-management.
After the debate was over, your network probably jumped off for post-spin. We watched on C-Span, which continued running a live feed you may have missed. The President and Romney came around their podia and shook hands. The First Lady and Ann Romney joined their husbands on stage; soon, the Romneys had about eighteen family members on stage, whom the President greeted with class and courtesy individually.
Suddenly, the Obamas walked off stage—who knows where they were headed. The Czar understands the Secret Service wanted them airborne as quickly as possible, so that’s fine. But the instant the Obamas went behind the backdrop, Romney turned and raised a hand—and the audience went nuts with cheers and applause. That says a lot.
In the end, the lovely Царица switched us off C-Span (where you watch with no interruptions or distractions or analysis!) and started hitting the major networks. CBS News did a poll of 400 undecided voters, and they preferred Romney 2:1 over the President. Bloomberg stated that they received a few statements from the Romney campaign debunking Democratic claims and generally announcing Romney was a crowd favorite; Bloomberg added they received nothing from the Obama campaign at all, which surprised them. ABC News is also telling similar stories, that the President did not take this seriously enough.
One thing is for sure: while the President is not pleased that Romney impressed so many undecided voters, he must be sorely enraged that the next debate is between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. That puts the Obama campaign down 0-2.