Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Obama vs. Romney, Debate #1

Image from NBCNews
Ugh. Well, that was unpleasant. I am not only referring to the pervasive opinion in the punditry that "Romney won," but to the whole affair. I'm a political junkie, and I painfully endured the whole thing, while relying on my Twitter feed to keep me sane. The Other Half--slightly less interested in politics--left the room after twenty minutes. You'd think that we were cringing at President Obama's lackluster performance. But no. It was just an interminable, wonkish, unpleasant hour and a half.

It is true that the President was off his game. He was reactive, allowing Mitt Romney to run roughshod over the (very loose) debate format, and thus allowing Romney the last word far too often. The President was so reserved, I honestly suspected him to come out blazing in the third quarter, and when that didn't happen, I wondered if he intentionally threw the first match in some of that three-dimensional chess strategy he's famous for.

Whatever it was, it was something different from what it will likely be spun to be in the beltway media. This may have been a "win" for Romney in the technical sense, but he is presented with several problems as well. First, he came off no more likable than he ever has been. In fact, he furthered the impression that he's just a dick. If his aim from the start was to trample Jim Lehrer, the moderator, and set the agenda throughout, he was successful, so points for that. Dickish points, but points nonetheless. He also supplied quite a bit of material for fact checkers to refute, while also coming off quite caffeinated. Which is rather odd for a Mormon. There is also the problem of his terse, artificial smile/smirk. More of that dick thing, I guess. [Story continues below]

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The President had his moments, and a couple of times I thought, "here we go!" But he never went for the knockout punch. He didn't use "47%," he didn't pierce the Medicare cuts lie, and he certainly didn't try for any Romneyesque lie/zingers. But he was mostly playing defense, only rarely turning the narrative around on Romney to an effect. The biggest criticism I'd have of the President is to say that when he saw Romney being a dick, he didn't act dickish in return. Actually, I'm kind of glad he didn't. But I'd liked for him to at least spike the ball back into Romney's court.

The only way this debate will be any kind of game changer, hinges more on perception than anything that actually happened in it.  MSNBC--contrary to their "in the tank for Obama" reputation--may have unwittingly made things worse by making the debate seem more dire than it actually was. I mean it was bad--all around--but with "friends" like Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz, who needs enemies? They've done their part to cement the perception of a big Romney win, whether or not it really was. When it was over, I was just happy it was over. The format, the debaters, the questions, the answers. . .all of it was just boring and mind numbing. But if you believe the pundits, it was some huge performance by Romney. Again, maybe in style. Certainly not in substance.

Frankly, I'm more interested in how this debate plays into the next. Will Romney be cocky (and dickish, of course), and jinx himself? Will the President overcompensate, and come off desperate? Will the scales balance? Hard to say. But it would be difficult to be more uncomfortable to sit through. One thing is for sure: Obama will have a different approach.


Candidates battle over tax plans in first debate

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's tax cut proposals consumed the opening moments in his first debate versus President Barack Obama, as the two candidates sparred over whether the math behind the Republican presidential nominee's plans matched his rhetoric. . .

Read more at: NBCNews

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