17 October, 2012
Round Two: In the last analysis, a draw
In the aftermath of last night's "town meeting" debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, an instant poll of undecided voters conducted by CBS found that 37% thought that POTUS had won the debate, 30% thought that Romney had won it- and that 33% thought it was a draw.
I initially gave the debate to Obama by a small margin, at least in terms of impact on the race. If the debate was being scored, I would have seen it as a draw. But Mr. Obama seemed to me to do marginally better than his opponent in the showmanship aspect that debate judges strive to ignore, but which is apt to impress potential voters.
But when all is said and done, when 63% of the audience thinks either that your opponent won or that the evening was a wash, it's difficult to make the case that you've scored much of a victory even if a plurality thinks otherwise. I think the unnamed Romney advisor CBS quoted was right when he said of the debate, "This isn't going to move the needle much."
Which is good news for Romney- who is, after all, ahead in the polls (today's Gallup tracking poll, which was conducted before the debate, gives Romney a six-point lead among likely voters), and who, after all, managed in the first debate to estabish himself as a viable alternative to Mr. Obama. Those inclined to draw a parallel between this year and 2004- another year in which the challenger won the first debate, and experienced a bounce in the polls- should ask themselves whether anybody but the most rabidly partisan Democrat ever actually saw John Kerry as a viable alternatie to George W. Bush. There are many things one saw when looking at candidate Kerry. But a president wasn't really one of them.
That's not the case for Romney. See also here.
Nor was the Lutz gathering the only focus group swayed toward the Republican nominee. The result of the MSNBC focus group must surely have dismayed the network's core constituency:
Moderator Candy Crowley interrupted the former Massachusetts governor 28 times, and the president only nine. She also gave Mr. Obama 9% more time than she gave Mr. Romney.
No question who Ms. C is going to vote for. And incidentally, both the president and Candy were wrong about that statement Mr. Obama made in the Rose Garden. While he mentioned the word "terrorism," he did not use the word to describe the Benghazi attack- and his administration repeatedly insisted for days afterward that the attack had merely been a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video that got out of hand. Despite the use of RPG's and mortars, the administration denied for several days that the attack was planned.
Interestingly- though not surprisingly- the Democrat has gotten the bulk of the time in all three of the debates thus far.
One interesting moment came when Romney had the president on the ropes over the Obama campaign's incessant criticism of Romney's investments in China and the Caymans. "Have you looked at your own pension, Mr. President?," Romney asked. "You also have investments in China and the Caymans." "Well, Mr. Obama replied, "You know, I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours, so it — it doesn't take as long>"
It was a copout and a cheap shot. But in media room, the reporters broke into applause.
Objective journalists. Right.
Ron Fornier thought the debate's outcome was "uncertain." Republican Dick Morris thought Romney had won. Leftist Andrew Sullivan was "bloody elated" by the president's performance.
In the aftermath of the debate, Twitter was inundated by assasination threats against Governor Romney. Threats of riots if the Republican defeats Mr. Obama were already common.
Here are some charming screenshots of tweets following the debate.
Obama campaign co-chair Eva Longoria also had a charming tweet.
Mr. Obama managed what sure soudned like interesting Freudian slip last night. I wonder if he's quite as confident as he lets on.
One interesting feature of the debate was a bizarre exchange over the administration's bungling of the Behghazi incident. Mr. Obama sharply- and inaccurately- accused Mr. Romney of saying that members of the administration had "played politics" with the incident, an accusation which POTUS said was "offensive."
But it's also an accusation Romney never made. Rather , it was the president who accused Romney of playing politics with the incident. Romney had simply questioned the president's performance and the administration's competence.
Delusional Obama supporters are crowing that the exchange knocked Benghazi out of the campaign as an issue. They wish. At the end of the day the administration's ineptitude remains a real concern. And as I suspect Mr. Obama's supporters will find out to their sorrow next Monday night in Florida, the most diplomatically inept administration in recent history is vulnerable on the foreign policy front for much, much more than letting an American ambassador be assassinated because it ignore pleas for greater security in Benghazi.
Ratings were slightly lower for last night's debate than fot the first encounter between the two men.
A University of Colorado formula with a perfect record for calling presidential elections predicts with 77% certainty that Romney will win the popular vote. And that, I think, is the bottom line right now.
Nothing happened last night that figures to change the status quo in this race. And unless something does happen between now and November 7, the election of America's first African-American president will be followed by the election of its first Mormon one.