Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quick & Dirty Views on the Obama/Romney Debate Part Deux

Alrighty then. Tonight's debate was certainly spirited, wasn't it? 

What was different?

The setting was more intimate, with the two men surrounded by undecided voters, and no lectern to hide behind as they both came out to speak directly to their questioners, and, more than once, to each other.

President Obama, no surprise, took the offensive and attacked Governor Romney's policies to a deeper level than ever before.

He took Romney to task on switching positions, saying one thing after doing another, and proposing policies he feels infringes on the rights of women, families, and the middle class.

He was attentive while Romney was speaking, he identified himself repeatedly by his title, as if to remind us of just who he is, and not only rarely backed down to interruptions, but in fact tried to appear as an ally to moderator Candy Crowley, the timers, and the 'folks' with questions to ask.

He also cut his ahs and ums down by 90%, replacing them with pauses, occasional double words/stutters, and lane changes (starting an answer then changing the start).

Overall, a much smoother and confident presentation from our Commander in Chief (another title oft mentioned).

For Governor Romney? Not much was different. Part of that was he didn't need to change his approach much after his successful first debate. He did focus more on Obama's failing, particularly in addressing the question about why a particular voter should vote for 'four more years'. It was his strongest attack of the evening, and he continued to hammer those points home throughout the night.

He was less condescending in the background, but more willing to interrupt the President and the moderator (which, considering how often he interrupted Jim Lehrer, is saying something).

Going Toe to Toe

At 16:20 in the debate, Governor Romney challenged the President on his energy policies. Obama rose, and the two edged toward each other as Romney pushed for an answer. It appeared as if the two were challenging each other for dominance in an almost animal-like manner, both physically and intellectually.

Who came out the winner? I'd say the President, by a half-point, staying relatively cool in the face of a clear attack (Romney was physically facing him, while the President was faced out more to the audience and cameras), whether you agreed with his answer or not.


Again, there was little to no respect for the timing of the answers, by either candidate, though the President seemed to pay more attention most of the time. He called for Romney to end his answers in the first half, but by the end seemed to simply take longer for himself to even up the airtime.

Dealing With the Moderator

As mentioned above, the President tried to create an ally in Candy Crowley, but in the final third of the debate, he often interrupted and talked over her. Governor Romney wasted little time in interrupting Ms. Crowley, treating her with as much, or as little respect as he did Mr. Lehrer. His intent was, of course, to be able to fully able to voice his views.

His result may not be as strong as they were the first time around - and may be seen as more disrespectful to a female moderator than it would have to another male moderator. Squishy ground here, but middle America still has an affinity for showing respect to women, and with Obama painting him as less than a champion of women's issues, a bit more tact would have served him well.

Answering the Questions

Neither stayed on point for long, taking questions and turning them toward their own talking points. Their approach in doing so was different, with the President either answering quickly before expanding the topic, or taking a circuitous route to an answer with an anecdote, while the Governor often seemed more intent on finishing his thoughts on the last topic before addressing the new one.

Closing Statement

In fact, it was a closing question, and a nice set up at that: What perception of yourself would you like to debunk? (loosely paraphrased)

In his closing answer, Governor Romney accused the Obama campaign as characterizing him as a very different person than who he was,.painting a definitive picture of himself as a man of God, a family man, and a businessman, someone who cared about 100% of the American people. Finally, he attacked again, insisting America doesn't have to 'settle' for the status quo. He looked more authentic in his description than through some of his stories of family life in the past debate, and throughout the campaign.

President Obama had the last word, and worked to debunk the idea that he believes government creates jobs, instead saying he believe in the free enterprise system, self-reliance and risk-takers, but tempered his statements by insisting everyone needs a fair shot, and needs to pay their fair share. He yielded to Romney's statements about himself as a family man and man of faith, but paraded out Romney's 'behind closed doors' dismissal of 47% of Americans as victims who don't take responsibility for themselves. Those victims, he insisted, are students, people on Social Security, the military, and veterans. Quickly, he asked for our vote, and another four years.

So Who Won?

Both sides will claim their man won. Both made strong attacks on the other, both defended with strength, and both were able to be clear about their own beliefs of being a successful president.

I see it as a victory for the President, but not a victory over Romney as much as a victory over his own failed performance in the first debate. I believe he has reassured his support base, and repaired much, if not all, of the damage in the two men's first meeting.

It was also a victory for the Governor, in that he not only stood his ground, but continued to work to emotionally undermine his opponent based on his first four years in office.

Who Was the Best Communicator?

Romney is still the better speaker, despite Obama's improvements. But tonight I believe the President communicated with a passion and confidence that evoked memories of the man who ran in 2008. While Romney was emotionally undermining Obama's record, Obama was emotionally connecting with his constituency.


A. The debate was a push, so the victory really goes to the incumbent.
B. The best communicator, by virtue of emotional connection, is the President

I'm sure many of you will disagree. I'm OK with that. Please do so from at least an arm's length away...

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