Thursday, October 04, 2012

Not quite up to the hype.

Not exactly Ali-Frazier.

Not even "The Kenyan Assassin" versus "The Stormin' Mormon".

More like "See Mitt. See Mitt act like a dick."

Faced with several recent polls showing Romney falling behind, the GOP candidate may have bought himself some added time after Wednesday's debate, where he appeared on the offensive against Obama. Romney's answers to questions from the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS Newshour, who played a subdued role over the course of the evening, were crisp and appeared well-rehearsed. His responses included as many specifics as the limited time would allow, and Romney seemed to hit his marks in a way Obama was not able to.

The headline of that article called Obama 'subdued', and the excerpt says it was Lehrer who was somnambulant. The truth: Obama got carpet-bombed by the frenetic challenger, and the moderator lost control right from the jump.

Romney -- who, despite what they say about Mormons and caffeine, obviously had too many Red Bulls in the green room -- repeatedly interrupted both his debate opponent and the mod, crapped on the format by taking the last word every single time, and generally acted like he owned the debate hall.

Lehrer indicated, after Romney finally completed answering the first question, that they were already fifteen minutes behind. Mitt had something to prove last night but 'jackass' probably wasn't what he was hoping for. He went for it anyway. I'm sure TeaBaggers and Bibi Netanyahu are thrilled about Mitt's belligerence, but I can't see that it sways many undecided voters.

Romney was due for a rebound after the past couple of months, and this is probably it. Things could narrow in the swing states. Republicans should be very enthused.

Does this performance change much? Did Lloyd Bentsen using Dan Quayle as a mop alter the trajectory in 1988? On the other hand, when Reagan asked the question in 1980, he changed the game.

Debates as turning points historically appear to be attributable to gaffes, like Richard Nixon's flopsweat in 1960, Gerald Ford's view of Polish independence in 1976, or Bush the Elder checking his watch in 1992. Obama didn't make any... and he won't. But as with four years ago, his cool detachment serves him poorly in this venue. The president is fencing; Romney is playing hockey, slamming Obama into the boards up and down the ice.

Here's another blast from the past: When Mike Dukakis calmly replied to a hyperbolic question from CNN's Bernie Shaw about his wife's theoretical rape and murder, he was seen as emotionally devoid, i.e., weak. But all that really did that was feed in to a well-established campaign season narrative about Dukakis.

The 2012 narrative is that Mitt is disorganized, dishonest, waffly, and robotic. What he did well last night is dispel two or three of those. ('Dishonest' wasn't one of them.)

And I generally prefer my candidates with a little fight in 'em, and Obama just does not have that. Which is fine, because I'd rather not have a hothead with his finger on the button. That's why I watched the Democracy Now! debate, where Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson were spliced live into the the conversation between Obama and Romney: Stein and Anderson both are passionate about the issues without being manic or hostile.

At least this faceoff wasn't as cringe-inducing as Sadler-Cruz. Here's some additional perspective...

"The challenger, indeed"

Republican Mitt Romney was fiery and having fun. President Barack Obama came off as the professor without much pop.

And while Democrats grudgingly conceded that Romney did well in Wednesday's debate, what matters is whether he changed the dynamic of a race that he appeared to be losing.


By that measure, Romney may not have changed the game, but he sure played it well. Obama avoided any gaffes but looked surprisingly lackluster at times.

After several difficult weeks, Republican Mitt Romney found his footing on Wednesday night in a strong debate performance against Democratic President Barack Obama. The question is whether it is too late to make a difference.

Romney could see a burst of fundraising, new interest from undecided voters and a wave of support from his fellow Republicans after he appeared to have emerged as a clear victor in his first face-to-face confrontation with Obama. Romney likely will benefit from favorable news coverage as well.

Still, with the November 6 election little more than a month away, Romney is running out of time to seize the lead.

Voting has begun in some form or another in 35 states, and 6 percent of those have already cast their ballots, according to a Reuters/IPSOS poll released on Wednesday.

And while debates are among the most memorable events of any presidential campaign, there is little evidence that they can change the outcome of an election.

Obama may have underwhelmed, but he avoided the sort of disastrous performance that can cause backers to reassess their support.

"Voters' reaction":

Mitt Romney seemed to be on the ball, more so than President Obama, in Wednesday night's kickoff of the 2012 presidential debate series. If you are keeping score, it's Mitt Romney: 1, President Obama, 0. 

Ultimately, I feel maybe President Obama played it too safe. I felt Obama wanted to speak more about Romney's platform than persuade the public of his own ideas. 

Romney's lack of details when it comes to health insurance and reducing the deficit is troubling. The most specific he got was saying that he would "eliminate all programs based on this test, if they don't pass it -- Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it. And if not, I'll get rid of it." 

One of those programs is PBS; Romney said he loved Big Bird and would be sorry to see him go. Well, if Romney thinks that Sesame Street is PBS's sole contribution to society, then he really is out of touch with America. 

Romney's performance was a textbook example of how one behaves in a debate. He was cheerful, but forceful, in command of his facts and, above all, relentless. Obama, on the other hand, seemed nervous and ill at ease, looking on more than one occasion at his shoes. He clearly did not want to be there and did not enjoy the experience. 

Romney stated during the debate that the role of the federal government is to "to uphold the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence." Doesn't that include my right to believe in my own God(s), and not be forced to worship the "same God" he spoke of? Apparently not as far as Romney is concerned, as long as Congress continues to "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." My vote is now firmly set on Obama, who at the very least hasn't presumed to tell me what my religious beliefs are or should be. 

The best one of those was this one (my emphasis). 
I believe Romney performed better, but this debate was a loss for both parties, and our nation, because it concentrated mainly on the economy and health care, but made no mention of civil liberties. Obama is fighting to keep [controversial NDAA provisions]. Why not attack him on that domestic policy issue? Because the Republicans are for it, too. Democrats and Republicans are OK with it.

In my state, we have seven candidates for president. Only two of these people are allowed to debate. It's my belief that this is bad for freedom. And I will look into the other candidates and vote for one of them. 

-- David Garrett Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.

Yep. Me too.

Update: Prairie Weather assembled the fact-checks of Romney's blither-blather. He failed.

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