Saturday, October 6, 2012

Debate Disaster: Obama's Enthusiasm- Gap and the Return of the Mass. Moderate

Wednesday night's presidential debate was so shockingly one-sided that there are many points that I'd like to make. To the list!

Only Clint Eastwood could have lost this debate

  • If President Obama simply fought Mitt Romney to a draw, especially in light Friday's positive jobs report, this race would be over. Obama had opened up a solid lead about a month before the election. He was an average performance away from shoring up victory.
  • Obama has never been a world-class debater, but he was so bad in Denver that I have only been able to come up with a couple of explanations, let's take them one by one. To the list within the list!
  • Obama looking at Bush 41's watch
    • Coming off of a very strong convention, Obama had been dominating the campaign for weeks. Romney couldn't get out of his own way. There was his bungled foreign trip, a forgettable convention highlighted by Romney failing to salute the troops and a septuagenarian lecturing an empty chair, the 47% recording, and a host of dismal polls. But the Obama camp should have recognized that they were on the verge of victory and that Romney was a smart and capable guy in an absolutely desperate situation. This is a man who has been actively running for president since 2004. Who turned down a $30 million salary in 2009 to run again. A man that is willing to say anything to win that office. Maybe the Obama team, so disciplined and smart for so long, got overconfident and severely misjudged the proper strategy for this debate.
    • After Bill Clinton's amazing convention speech, expectations were high for Obama's address to close the DNC. When he came off as uninspired, some speculated that perhaps he had a warning that September's job numbers would be soft and he wanted to set a more subdued tone. But after Wednesday, when the president seemed like he'd rather have been anywhere else, one has to wonder: Is the man's heart fully in this race? Remember, President Obama and his closest advisors have maintained that from the outset of their campaign in 2007, Obama did not have an unshakable need to be president. And he has had to endure so much, that maybe he's suffering from a personal enthusiasm- gap.
    • Maybe Al Gore was right and the altitude got to him.
  • Many outlets have pointed out, in tones both serious and satirical, that if the purpose of the debate was to make honest arguments for one's positions, then Obama actually dominated. Romney contradicted his own statements and distorted his own positions. Obama called him out (for the most part) and was honest with the American electorate. And it's a sad indictment of our culture and media that Romney's performance can be called a "win." But I can't buy that. For many voters the debates are the start of election season, or at least a time to form strong opinions. Yes, the media should be honest about what Romney said. But the voters who are undecided or uninformed are not watching those recaps anyway (and who can blame them). Obama had a responsibility to call out the BS, at the risk of his image, for the good of his campaign and the country. He failed. But Romney's debate tactics lead to my last point...
  • Romney, fighting off retirement and for his political life, morphed back into the Massachusetts Moderate conservatives reviled all through their primary (who saw that coming?). On Social Security, Medicare, taxes, Romney blurred his differences with the president. He even bragged about his Massachusetts health care plan. One of his advisors almost got fired for doing that this summer! Republicans are juiced up after their nominees excellent performance, and they have every right to be. But how can conservatives feel good when, after they longed for an ideological-choice-election led by Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney saved his campaign by acting like a blue- dog Democrat? Got to turn their stomachs a bit... but I'm sure they'll take it.
He's probably still going to win, though

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