Now that’s more like it.
What does make me wonder is just how often trade agreements were mentioned. I realize that in D.C. and in economic circles, there isn’t any significant opposition to free trade, but this is decidedly an unpopular position with the public, which sees free trade as destroying American jobs. Obama didn’t really draw much of a contrast there, but Romney mentioned them more. Wonder how blue-collar Ohio folks think about that? Romney says certain things that don’t make much sense politically, which makes me think he actually means them (see also: China bashing). That doesn’t mean they’re good ideas.
Anyway, Obama won this one clearly. Romney was on the business end of a few pretty tough potshots, and got positively owned on Libya, but I really wonder if the “Moderate Mitt” facade didn’t chip a little today. Vagueness and a lack of substance is nothing new for him, but is he really going to be able to ride such a superficial rhetorical surge all the way to the White House? Doubt it, considering it ebbed and flowed even today. After a certain point, people are going to expect more than “not as awful as we thought,” and his current avatar is not undergoing any further development. Onto the next debate, where Romney will spend much of the debate attacking the president’s strength with his weakest point. Should be fun.
I think Chait captures a lot of the “liberal debate hysteria” story, but not all of it. To a large extent, the problem was one of meeting expectations. Romney is an acknowledged debater of some skill, and he certainly has had a lot of experience doing them at this level. His performance was “as expected,” perhaps a little better. Obama’s performance was far worse than expected, so that was the story. (Romney’s lies were, sadly, also quite expected, and thus not a story, which is a statement in and of itself.) It would be one thing if only Obama had been uninspired and low-energy. But he wasn’t, the debate was also a strategic catastrophe that allowed Romney to change his image drastically with minimal pushback. That OFA didn’t hit back the day after the debate on Romney’s evasions was a sadly missed opportunity that allowed the president’s loss unlimited room to become a durable major story. Had Obama aggressively pushed back against Romney’s evasions even with the same demeanor and energy level, the fallout would have been minimal, perhaps even nonexistent. Perhaps not aiming for a tie would have been advisable. And until Democratic pols realize that what liberals say they want (i.e. sober discussion of the issues) doesn’t entirely match with what really makes them act (optimism, tenacity, hope, even bombast), this sort of thing will keep happening. What they really want is this:
Which Obama is never going to give you, naturally. But that’s the wish fulfillment fantasy.
Anyway, I’ll undoubtedly be darkening your door with some form of post-debate analysis. I fully expect Obama to be solid in a town hall setting, and now that he has Something To Prove* I’m sure he’ll show up to play. And I wouldn’t count on Romney being flawless either–followers of the primaries no doubt remember how Romney got cocky every time he started to win, and promptly came up with enough gaffes and PR disasters to let Gingrich or Santorum back into the game. I don’t think he’s changed. We’ll find out.
* Which is a silly conceit, but that does seem to be the consensus view going in.
A new study  by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation confirms [that] the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan would result in six out of ten seniors paying substantially more for the same Medicare benefits they receive today.
A pretty clear win for Biden, IMO, and one that effectively sewed seeds of doubt about Ryan’s readiness on foreign policy. Biden seemed to be full of facts–I wouldn’t be surprised if one of his goals was to simply rattle off more numbers than Ryan, which I would guess he accomplished quite easily. He was both tougher and more sensitive than Ryan, funnier and more aggressive. Damn near a command performance, really.
Ryan was…not nearly as bad as Obama was last week, to be fair. Very flat, I think. Biden, though, was much better than Romney was last week. And the format really revealed the limitations of Ryan’s communication skills. I kept noticing how aptly Biden was able to switch tone, pacing, and approach depending on the topic. Ryan, however, was monotonous. His tone was the same no matter what the subject was, whether he was talking about taxes, contraception or Iran, even when he was getting “personal” at certain points. Biden’s attacks on the “47%” comments were delivered in a very different manner from his discussion of his religion, while Ryan’s act was more of a drone (though my wife listened to the thing on radio and had a higher opinion of it than I did, for what it’s worth). The clenched jaw and occasional bug-eyes really didn’t make him look terribly composed either. Republicans desiring Ryan to be a future presidential candidate ought to be deeply concerned by this debate, which showed him to be an uncertain communicator outside his metier (fawning journalist interviews?), though these sorts of problems ought to be fixable with experience I suppose.
In any event, I must confess the thing was just what the doctor ordered. Let’s hope O can keep it up…I have a good feeling about the town hall meeting format.
The apparent split between the national vote and the electoral college has some analysts, like Nate Silver, groping for an explanation, but the answer seems fairly obvious to me: Swing states have been soaked in political information for months, with round-the-clock advertising, campaigning, and local news coverage of candidate love-bombing. The non-swing majority of America hasn’t. New information from the debates is more likely to change your mind if you just tuned in to the Denver debate than if you had been hiding under your sofa while Obama and Romney pounded down your front door.The one (possibly only) argument in favor of retaining the electoral college at this point is that it keeps the megabuck spending confined to a few states, some of which are pretty small (New Hampshire, Iowa, and Nevada, for example). In a popular vote system, it would be like that everywhere, which would mean a hell of a lot more corporate money in the system in order to blitz the L.A. suburbs and such. Republicans would advertise in California because getting 5% more of the vote here (a plausible goal, IMO) could swing the national election. This is, I think, the only real argument that the EC ought to stay, though I’m not sure I fully buy it.
Less likable Wallace Shawn has got some highly original thoughts to share on the debate. Here’s a tease, do stay with me if it makes you giggle:
Understanding why Mitt Romney so decisively won the first presidential debate is as important as the fact that he did. Why? Because once we know the reasons, almost everything about President Barack Obama and this election becomes clear.
First, Obama lost because he, like virtually the entire left, lives in a left-wing bubble.
Come come now, Dennis. You know what they say about people living in glass bubbles, right? Continue reading »
Continue reading »
Yeah, I know, I’ve been gone for quite a few days now. Too much going on IRL I suppose.
I didn’t want to write much about the debate because I felt it was hyper-analyzed as it was, far out of proportion to what it merited. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t an incredibly depressing sight to behold, though. I wasn’t surprised by the over-the-top reactions on both sides–after a month where nothing went right for Mitt Romney, Republicans needed some kind of release, any kind, really. And Democrats who had seen nothing go wrong for quite some time were shocked by this sudden stumble. It wasn’t disqualifying, but Obama’s performance was dangerously inadequate, trying to feel his way around every answer. It had the feel of trying too hard to please too many groups of people.
OTOH, I thought Romney’s performance wasn’t that great outside of the stylistic realm, and the hyperbolic coverage since then has had more to do with how bad Obama was. Romney didn’t really make much of a case for dumping Obama, though he put forward a better version of himself I suppose. I’m not sure it really matters if voters really see Mitt as a warm and cuddly moderate or a standard-issue conservative–as Jonathan Bernstein says, the out-party candidate doesn’t matter all that much. All the bipartisanship stuff seemed silly to me, as every poll in recent times has shown the public seeing Obama as plenty bipartisan, perhaps even excessively so.
Still, it’s hard to deny this is a momentum shift the wrong way, at the worst possible time. I have little doubt Romney will squander it–just wait until that famous Romney sense of humor kicks back in on the campaign trail!–but it’s been lousy for morale to have the president get walked on this way, and perhaps meaningful on its own, too. My feelings toward the current president are, as they have long been, complicated. I deeply respect the man for just being willing to absorb so much abuse, dehumanizing abuse, most of which he can’t do anything about, which he can’t respond to. There have been moments of steely resolve in there, as this guy recounts, and the problem isn’t “toughness” per se. But I find that I have increasingly less respect for the notion that politics is or should be completely civil, intellectual and high-minded, and Obama very much represents that model of politics to this day. It was an appealing model four years ago, but the limitations of it have become achingly clear, and Obama still hasn’t quite managed to figure out what to do when that model doesn’t work out. I don’t know if that’s what happened during the debate, but it’s possible. I get a very Gary Hart-ish vibe from him at times, someone who just doesn’t want to believe that politics are what they are.
In any event, when the dust settles, I suspect the following things will happen. Obama will win by about four points. Romney will have given the right an easy path to arguing the problem was that his failure was due to moving to the center, though that’s a deeply ironic argument. Ryan will have a much different kind of stench to evade when he runs for president in four years. Romney’s original instinct was undoubtedly correct–Obama will only lose if the public believes he is responsible for the economic collapse alone, and they don’t. His debate performance didn’t really make that more likely. It was tactically brilliant, but strategically suspect. After the dust settles, that’s what I expect to see.
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