Debate Recap

Thanks to all those who joined us for another live chat packed to the gills. A few of my initial thoughts:

– Romney was good for the most part, but slightly more uneven than in his first performance. As will likely be widely noted, he seemed astonishingly unprepared to talk about Libya and failed to capitalize on the fact that President Obama had completely failed to answer the audience member’s question about who was responsible for the failure to increase security in the run-up to the Benghazi attack. Romney will have to develop a much clearer plan of attack for the foreign policy debate next week.

– Romney was at his best when laying out a comprehensive indictment of Obama’s term in office. He’s learned to strike a perfect balance when laying out this litany — sharp without being demagogic, and disappointed without being condescending. He’s also perfectly calibrated his rhythm and tone — in his best moments, Romney has a sort of Reagenesque cadence, lending him the air of a kindly, patient grandfather.

As Ben Domenech predicted earlier, Obama did overcorrect a bit in reaction to his listless performance in the first debate. I don’t think it was quite as bad as Ben anticipated (Obama’s debating points were sharper and he was clearly itching for a fight), but his tone was needlessly aggressive at times. He reminded me of nothing so much as the guy who defends his girlfriend with excessive machismo because she yelled at him for failing to stick up for her before.

– Like Jonathan below, I actually quite enjoyed Jim Lehrer’s moderation of the first debate, which I thought brought us closer to Newt Gingrich’s free-form model than most of these forums. Candy Crowley started out fine, but she deserves to be pilloried for giving President Obama an assist when she (incorrectly) backed up his assertion that he had regarded Libya as a terrorist attack from the get-go. Fact-checkers are already unreliable enough on deadline. Let’s not have anchors try to wing it on live television.

– Unlike the first debate, I doubt this one changed many minds. If you’re an undecided voter (read: if you’re distracted by shiny things), I suspect your biggest takeaway would be disgust at the way Romney and Obama consistently bickered and talked over each other. Even for those of us who enjoy a little more thrust and parry, it was utterly fatiguing and both men came off petulant at times as they tried to nickel and dime the moderator.

– President Obama had one very savvy move. He saved his criticism of Romney’s ’47 percent’ remarks until the final moments of the debate, when Romney didn’t have a chance to respond (although Romney did anticipate the attack in his closing remarks). This probably didn’t have much of an impact in real time, as I’m sure a lot of viewers had tuned out by then. But it did provide a crisp sound bite, which will probably be much more important in the news cycle of the next few days than it was during the actual debate.

Upshot: I doubt the status quo changes from this debate. I suppose you can count it as a win for Obama in that it’s unlikely that this performance will dig him a deeper hole in the polls. But there’s nothing here that seems like a recipe for reversing the trajectory either. That should be cold comfort in the White House.

  1. Instugator
    Token: 

    If you are reacting in real time wouldn’t you say you were sending in a squad by the fastest jet/helecopter? · 4 hours ago

    I honed in on the same thing with regard to the Libya discussion – President Obama favors closing the barn door after the horses run away – in this case however the closed circuit feed of the barn gave him plenty of warning to get up, stretch – drink coffee – stretch some more – then saunter over and close the door.

    Like he said, he is responsible.

  2. KC Mulville
    Eeyore

    Luvya, KC, but the Bamster won promising “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.”

    Reality is notan election lock.

    With respect, I disagree. That’s when he had no reality against which to match the words. That reality is all-too-present now.

  3. Scott R
    Trace Urdan: My liberal Facebook friends are seemingly obsessed with the line that Romney gave about being presented with “binders full of women.” this is fast developinto into an Internet meme and seems to support some idea that Romney is a sexist, out of touch douche. I don’t get it, but it’s everywhere — from men and women. · 8 hours ago

    At least he didn’t say “bags full of women — bags and bags of women.” That wouldn’t have sounded very good.

    “Binders full of women” isn’t too good either, but it’s so-o-o Romney.

  4. Reckless Endangerment

    Keep pounding away on the campaign trail about the economy and the debt. Let the surrogates and reporters hash out the Libya stuff. For the love of God, get John Bolton 0n everywhere to talk about how this administration blatantly painted a contrary picture to what was actually going on in Libya.

  5. wmartin

    CNN instant poll has Obama winning by 7 points, 46-39. I pretty much trust that, so I think we accept that Obama won and will get a boost. That Libya answer seems to be what did all the damage, though.

  6. Gus Marvinson

    The takeaway, for me, came after the debate was over. Obama was surrounded by “undecideds” trying to get his  autograph, while Romney had his family and just a trickle of autograph-seekers.

    Undecided my behind.

  7. Token

    Question, does this answer smell as fishy to you as it does to me?

    Quote from Obama:

    So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions.

    Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region.

    Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again.

    And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we’re going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.”

    The answer sounds like a review, not a reaction in real-time as the event was occuring.

    If you are reacting in real time wouldn’t you say you were sending in a squad by the fastest jet/helecopter?

  8. doc molloy

    “Upshot: I doubt the status quo changes from this debate. I suppose you can count it as a win for Obama in that it’s unlikely that this performance will dig him a deeper hole in the polls.” Agreed. But O will blow it next time around. Nothing left in the tank.. Only so much much spinning you can do. Mitt’s got to finish stronger and hit harder… or else.

  9. Leigh

    Good news is that there is plenty of time for Romney to absorb lots of negative feedback about the way he dealt with Libya, and to be ready to go with it next time.

    He was sometimes too forceful with the moderator (though some of that may be necessary) and sometimes needed to wrap up his answers a little more quickly, in my opinion — I think he was losing some people at time.

  10. Gus Marvinson

    Oh yeah, and just once I’d like to hear Romney utter the phrase “individual liberty” in a debate.

    But I’m weird like that.

  11. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    Token: Question, does this answer smell as fishy to you as it does to me?

    Quote from Obama:

    Soas soon aswe found out that the Benghazi consulatewas………………

    The answer sounds like a review, not a reaction in real-time as the event was occuring.

    If you are reacting in real time wouldn’t you say you were sending in a squad by the fastest jet/helecopter? · 3 minutes ag

    Agree and think Obama in general seemed inauthentic, whereas Romney seemed authentic.

  12. ConservativeFred

    I give the edge to Romney, and would note the disappointment at Ricochet probably stems from the results of the last debate.  It was unreasonable to expect that Obama would fail to show-up for the second debate.

    This debate will not change the tenor of the race,

    Curiously, most of the talk will center on the moderator lying and shilling for Obama.  So maybe there is a slight edge for Romney coming out of this debate.

  13. Chris O.

    Fairly even, with a slight edge to Obama. At one point, it seemed he spoke for five minutes uninterrupted. The person that comes out of this the worst: Candy Crowley. It’s a mystery why she felt empowered to inject herself into the debate, but I must say she at least tried to be evenhanded (“Okay, Mr. President. Yes, the question was about guns, not the economy.”)

    Why Obama chose that moment to try a monologue, I’m unsure. Personally, I was pleased at that point that Romney didn’t trot out the “guns and God” quote. Even with the heated visuals, he constantly attacked record, where Obama repeatedly tried the class warfare tact.

    Speaking of visuals, did anyone else notice that in almost every shot, Obama appeared to be above Romney? Maybe it was his seeming claim that his prayer healed a kid’s gunshot wound (fact check here?!) that the producers thought he should float above Governor Romney. Okay, please know I’m joking here, I don’t think the President intended to make that claim, but his lack of fluency (which was still a problem throughout) seemed to send him in that direction.

  14. Frozen Chosen

    Romney definitely did better in the first half of the debate – let’s hope some folks turned the channel after the first 45 minutes.

    On the Libya question he hit a pop-up to short with the bases loaded – clearly a missed opportunity.  He should have addressed the questioner and said, “You asked President Obama who was responsible for pulling the security teams out of Libya; He’s had 5 weeks to investigate this in his own administration and he can’t give you an answer”

  15. Trace

    My liberal Facebook friends are seemingly obsessed with the line that Romney gave about being presented with “binders full of women.” this is fast developinto into an Internet meme and seems to support some idea that Romney is a sexist, out of touch douche. I don’t get it, but it’s everywhere — from men and women.

  16. KC Mulville

    Romney has to fight Obama and the media. Obama has to fight Romney and reality. 

    In the end, reality will matter most.

    For all the talk about narratives and strategies, Romney needed to rebut Obama’s scare tactics by simply being human. The rich boy, out of touch, corporate pirate image that Obama tried to pin on Romney doesn’t stick. The game now is being played between reality and the fantasy.  Obama is trying to weave a fantasy about how Romney is a monster. If Obama can’t maintain that fantasy, reality will crush him. 

    Romney did OK. Reality will win it for him.

  17. Eeyore
    KC Mulville: Romney did OK. Reality will win it for him.

    Luvya, KC, but the Bamster won promising “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.”

    Reality is not an election lock.

  18. Astonishing

     

    Token:  . . . If you are reacting in real time [to the Benhazi attack] wouldn’t you say you were sending in a squad by the fastest jet/helecopter?

     

    Exactly!

    This infuriates me, and no one is talking about it:

    Obama had six hours to send military in helicopters to try to save our ambassador and the other Americans under seige in the Benghazi compound.

    Instead, in real time, Obama made a cowardly political decision not to send military to try to rescue our fellow Americans because Obama was more worried about the effect a rescue attempt might have on voters’ perceptions of his handling of Lybia in particular and the middle east and terrorism in general.

    While Americans  were fighting desperately for their lives, while they were trapped in a burning building, Obama knew about it in real time. He could watch live from a front row seat, but for six hours he did nothing to try to save them. Obama decided, “Let them fend for themselves.”  The ones who survived had to fight their way out.

    Six hours!

    Obama decided, “Let them burn!”

    Then he lied about why they died.

    Then he went to Vegas.

     

  19. Stuart Creque

    On Libya, Romney accomplished something great with his “gaffe” by raising the following question: if the President knew it was a terror attack the day after it happened, why did he stand next to Ambassador Stevens’s coffin two days later and listen to Secretary Clinton blame his death on the video?  Why did he let his UN Ambassador go out two days after that and say on no less than five Sunday news shows that the video was to blame?  Why did he himself bring up the video in his own remarks to the UN General Assembly?

    And did NO ONE ELSE notice that Romney in multiple instances in the debate laid out Obama’s total economic failures without the President offering any meaningful rebuttal?  I am pretty sure the college student and the African-American gentleman remember that Obama offered them no reason for hope.  I am also pretty sure the woman who asked about energy remembers Romney’s point that if Obama’s policies were working, gasoline would be a lot cheaper.

  20. Stuart Creque

    Romney did miss an opportunity: when Obama said that implying that he or his Administration’s members might have misled or played politics regarding the Benghazi attack was offensive, Romney might have said, “Mr. President, as an American, I find it offensive that you and your Secretary of State and your UN Ambassador did, in fact, mislead and play politics regarding the death of four American public servants.”

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