Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick & Dirty Views on the Obama/Romney Debate in Denver

Well, that was fun.

I'm not going to pick the debate apart for politics or policy, or about the fact that Romney's flag pin was slightly larger, but on speaking points alone:

- Romney is clearly the better debater, the better speaker of the two. For all the rhetoric four years ago about how great a speaker President Obama is, he was too tentative tonight, ahhing and uhhing all over the place, giving the impression he was making it up as he went along.

- Romney went on the offensive, and attacked at every juncture, using passive aggressive statements throughout, as well condescending body language and facial expressions while Obama spoke.

- Romney told more stories, shared more anecdotes during each segment. Obama didn't go to a story until about halfway through, and they seemed a bit forced, particularly the tale of his grandmother. Interestingly, many of my friends in Cleveland seemed to think his identification of the Cleveland Clinic as an example of strong healthcare to be laughable, on both sides of the aisle, so to speak.

- Obama was on the defensive all night, only building steam when he talked about Obamacare. He looked, to me, to be a tired, stressed out president who would prefer to be anywhere but there.

- Romney's weakest moments came when talking about cutting programs, including PBS and Big Bird. He cannot afford to speak dismissively of anything, even for the sake of a laugh.

- Two powerful moments for Romney - 1. characterizing Obama as a child, repeating the tax cut as one of his sons would repeat an untruth, hoping we'd hear it enough to believe it, and 2. zapping him with 'You are entitled to your own house and your own plane, but not your own facts' - a line he was no doubt waiting to unleash all evening long.

- Two powerful moments for Obama - 1. calling Romney out for a lack of a detailed plan to reach his objectives for the economy, federal regulations, and healthcare, and 2. comparing Obamacare with Romneycare.

Essentially the night was one of 'Will not! - Will too!' back and forth between our president and the Republican nominee, as they accused each other of fairly egregious practices and potential outcomes.

The final statements of each contrasted sharply, with Obama maintaining a defensive posture, sticking to his guns and saying it will work, and Romney painting a rosier outcome vs. more of the same. The opportunity to have the last word would have worked in either candidates favor, but certainly helped Romney's cause more than it would have for Obama.

Speaking strictly of Speaking - I'd call this one for Romney, easily. President Obama will need to come back in the next two debates with confidence, with strong factual evidence, and a presidential stature. Romney needs to continue with his approach, but find a way to look less condescending when he's not speaking.

A quick note on Jim Lehrer - I thought his work as a debate facilitator tonight was weak-kneed. He let both speakers go overtime repeatedly, allowed both of them to run over him throughout. There is a difference between showing respect for the debaters and respect for the purpose of the debate. Letting them go on and on and vie for speaking power doesn't help the audience.

The big question to me is this: will this debate actually sway you one way or another? Or is this simply a moot diversion of our time and resources?


  1. Many conservatives have been distressed that all the moderators for the debates are left leaning without any right leaning or even straight neutral. It will be interesting to see how they go.

  2. I was disappointed with President Obama's performance, if for no other reason than he acted and spoke the same way he did in debates from 4 years ago... With 4 years of public speaking as a President under his belt, I hoped for a more polished view... I especially dislike when he looks down and writes throughout anything that the other speaker is saying... (Again, he did that 4 years ago...) As the other speaker, I would have found that quite offensive...

  3. The debates won't change my mind, but Romney was definitely on the mark last night, and Obama looked tired and distracted.



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