My thoughts on the 1st Presidential Debate
In case you didn’t know tonight there was a debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential election.
I’d like to share my thoughts on it.
My thoughts on the debate
My first impressions of the debate was that Mitt Romney caught the President off guard by distancing himself from his campaign pledges and plans to cut taxes for the rich, (by extending the so-called Bush era tax cuts) As a result the first section of the debate on creating jobs (and indeed the whole debate) became a referendum on whether or not Mitt Romney was believable in delivering sentiments that are not in line with what he has campaigned on. I felt early on President Obama was successful in subtly accentuating the idea that Romney wasn’t being forthcoming with the facts. President Obama did have a tendency to drift into a professorial tone which has been known to turn people off.
I speculate that Mitt Romney knew the dynamics in the race were bad for him and that if he didn’t make a major shift he would risk losing the election. He knew that President Obama would be looking to define him as someone who wanted to cut taxes for the rich. Mitt Romney’s strategy to counteract this was to simply deny that he ever proposed that position. I think in the future this will create questions about his credibility. In service of his approach Mr. Romney adopted an aggressive debate tone which made it seem as though he was dominating the debate and bullying the moderator and, at times, the President. Personally I felt Romney’s approach was frequently annoying and reflected a man who really likes to hear himself talk.
On the other hand, President Obama adopted a habit of addressing the camera, which I think may actually play in his favor. He definitely tried to rest on some of the advantages of being the incumbent, by trying to make his case directly to the American people and casting himself as someone who, after four years, had implemented some of the things that Mr. Romney was just talking about. He subtly attacked Romney on not having any specific plan of action for the things he was saying.
I think the overall tone of the debate cast President Obama as a person who felt he was fighting for the wellbeing of the people, while Mitt Romney was fighting for the wellbeing of small businesses. Not just any small businesses, but the top 3% (just as he is perceived to be fighting for the top 1%?)
I felt that Mr. Romney did succeed in scoring serious points by attacking the President for focusing on Obamacare instead of focusing on jobs as his first major program in his first couple of years in office. This is actually a criticism I have had for the President on some occasions and if I were running against the president I would have deployed this argument much earlier and much more often.
So who won?
Okay so let’s wrap this thing up. It is clear that when Mr. Romney is properly motivated and armed with the correct strategy, he is a formidable debater. His aggressive and at times bullying style made him appear to be dominating the debate. I felt that he scored definite blows by attacking President Obama’s prioritizing of healthcare over jobs.
However, I felt that President Obama scored some subtle points by pointing out that Mitt Romney was not being truthful about what he had run on and what he was debating on. In addition, the President scored some points for pointing out that Mitt Romney has no specifics on any of the plans he proposed. This has enabled Romney to parry attacks on the rare occasion that he has offered a position. I think the lasting impression of this debate will not be who won tonight but rather whether or not people actually believe what Mitt Romney said.
I will conclude by saying that try as I might to separate the debate performance from the rest of the campaign, I have found it difficult. If Mitt Romney told the truth about his positions on the campaign and remained consistent in his defense of his own record in Massachusetts as opposed to running away from it and then cherry picking whatever he wanted to from it during the debate. If he had stuck to his guns and defined why he believes the things he apparently does instead of completely recalibrating his position, and managed to still turn in the performance he did tonight I would say he won. However, I can’t in good conscience say that Mitt Romney won the debate when he so clearly was determined to be dishonest for the entirety of the debate. As a result I have to conclude that President Obama won the debate by a slight margin. I am aware that many people disagree with me on this point, but I think that when this is looked at in retrospect it will be seen that this performance tonight for Mitt Romney, while strong, was another step in the undoing of his candidacy.
If this debate is likened to a title fight Mitt Romney landed a handful of heavy blows, while President Obama calmly counterpunched for the entirety of the fight. For a time it might look like Romney was going to win the fight, but ultimately President Obama won the fight on points in a split decision.