Romney’s Crushing Defeat of Obama in the First Debate: Analysis and Reaction

Bookmark and Share  The first presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney produced a surprisingly lopsided victory for Romney that made President Obama look like the empty suit that most Americans have come to see him to be.  (See the complete video of the debate below this post)

From beginning to end, Romney was confident, commanding, and concise.  For his part, President Obama was a rambling mess who reiterated shallow DNC talking points that even he did not seem to believe anymore.  And while Mitt Romney came across as eager to address the President, President Obama often seemed uncomfortable and even annoyed.  Pained looks  to cross the his face as he continuously looked down at the podium with a strained smile or uncomfortable and exaggerated smile on his face as Mitt Romney often schooled him on such things as the economy and the constitutional role of government in America.

To make matters worse, even though President Obama addressed the audience 4 minutes longer longer than Romney did, his long winded responses actually did little more than provide listeners with a meandering mess that never seemed to arrive at a valid point. It drove home the fact that in politics, when you’re explaining, you’re losing.  In last night’s debate, President Obama was explaining a lot.

Viewers of the debate couldn’t help but feel that the President was running scared and even the most casual of political observers concluded that President Obama was caught off guard by Romney’s command of the issues and seemingly natural confident persona.  With nearly universal unanimity, viewers of last night debate saw a President that should have studied harder.   Of course the President will probably blame his poor debate performance on Bush, but when all was said and done, the first thought to strike me was that once again, Massachusetts Senator and 2004 Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry failed to accomplish another mission.  As President Obama’s debate prep partner, Kerry who stood in to play Mitt Romney during debate practice with the President, obviously did not do a good enough job because President Obama was far from ready for this first encounter with Romney.

The Reaction.

Probably the most dramatic result of last nights debate was the universal agreement on how each candidate fared.  Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that Mitt Romney was the clear winner and by wide margin.  Romney’s superior performance was even well lauded by the some of the left’s lowest of players.

Bill Maher spent the night in tears as he took to his iPhone to tweet the following gems;

Leading liberal blogmeister Markos Moulitsas‏ from the scurrilous Daily Kos had a few tweets denouncing President Obama’s weak debating skills;

Perhaps the gloomiest of gusses last though were the cast of clowns over at MNSBC.  There the liberal minions were apoplectic and unable to contain their frustrations.  The always lying and perpetually perplexed Chris Matthews was so distraught at the President’s inability to defend his failed liberal policies that it sparked within him a sense of anger that left him frothing at the mouth and offering a diatribe of the President that was at times violent.  The most notable example of that sentiment came when Matthews claimed that the President needs to watch his show and the rest of the programs on MSNBC because they have “the knives coming out. ”  Matthews added  “We go after the people”.

Over at the liberal lala land called Current TV, Al Gore’s leftwing propaganda mill, Gore himself sat in the center of his hand picked puppets and socialist supporters and confirmed that this first matchup with Romney for President Obama was not his finest moment.  But Gore defended the President by turning to a scapegoat that Gore has built his career on… the environment.  According to Gore, the high altitude of Denver where the debate took place was responsible for throwing the president off.

As for the right, Romney exceeded expectations and provided his base with some much needed enthusiasm.  Across the board, conservatives offered what was uncharacteristically high praise for Romney.  Conservative Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol credited Romney with what he called the “Best Debate Performance By a GOP Presidential Candidate in More than Two Decades”.  Over at the American Conservative, Scott Galupo offered the following eloquent assessment;

President Obama was listless, exhausted, halting. When he should have been vigorously twisting the knife, he would pause, search for words, and take 15 seconds to make a point that should have taken five seconds. Romney, by contrast, was gamely and ultraprepared; he never once seemed caught off guard. Romney came into this debate knowing he needed to alter the dynamic of the race. If he didn’t do it tonight, then it couldn’t be done.

What it All Means

While last night’s debate has provided Mitt Romney with at least an undeniable but possibly only temporary boost , with 30 days left in the election, it cannot be said that this first of  three presidential debates changed the game for him or Obama.  Most people who watched the debate walked away supporting the same candidate that they were supporting before they sat do to see the debate.  Romney did however at least help himself among the small but significant undecided voters who will be critical to his winning or losing the election.  Thanks to the way in which Romney handled himself, these voters did walk away without any reason to vote against Romney.  If anything, they left the debate still willing to give Romney a chance to earn their vote.  At the same time, another portion of that voting bloc saw a President who was unable to effectively defend his failed economic policies and who struggled to define what role government should play in our lives.  Combine that with the confident, poised, energetic, and convincing way in which Romney defended his own policies and these voters left the debate leaning closer to finalizing their support for Romney than at any other point in this election.

Still, despite the overwhelming consensus describing the first debate as a big win for Mitt Romney, at the moment the victory simply keeps him in the game.  It has provided the Romney campaign with a new narrative, one which gives his candidacy some much needed momentum.  But politics is dynamic, not static and as such Romney will have to work quite hard to keep the momentum flowing in his direction.  In addition to the need for a strong performance by his running mate Paul Ryan on October 11th in his debate against Vice President Blunder…I mean Biden,   Romney will also have to repeat his strong performance not just one more time but twice more in the the two debates yet to come on October 16th and October  22nd.  That will be a tall order, especially now that President Obama has learned that Mitt Romney is no pushover.

So Romney fans need to avoid the temptation to believe that last night was a game changer. When all is said and done and the benefit of hindsight allows us to analyze the entire election in retrospect, it could prove to be a so-called game changer but only if Romney can continue to outperform the President and not just in the debates.

As the remaining weeks of this campaign unfold, Romney must convince voters that he has a plan to turn our economy around and he must offer some details that demonstrates his vision includes much more than just the smoke and mirrors that President Obama’s 2008 “hope and change” campaign was based on.   After last night’s night debate Romney certainly has the opportunity to do that.

By Sunday, the first real in-depth polls based upon this debate will make their way into the public domain.  If those polls do not show at least some minimal change in Romney’s numbers in the right direction in critical states like Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire  than we will know that Romney has a bigger mountain to climb than some already think. If the numbers do show a swing towards Romney, than the pressure will still be on him as an Obama inspired target on his back gets bigger than ever.

Bookmark and Share

Trunkline 2012: Sunday Election News Review – 11//13/11

Bookmark and Share   Sunday’s summary of campaign news takes you through Saturday night’s presidential debate, new polls, Occupy protester’s plans, and more. 

Bookmark and Share

And that’s time

In a short hour and a half, made up of minute responses and thirty second followups, the GOP candidates once again took the stage to answer questions from semi-respectful moderators.  In a debate most looked forward to by Ron Paul fans, Paul received very little time. We have seen pretty much all there is to be seen about candidate style, and many of these questions were repeats.  So here are the winners and losers:

The Good

Mitt Romney won this debate.  His answers were calming, yet clear and determined.  He portrayed the very stature Americans are looking for in a Commander in Chief, and he highlighted American Exceptionalism.  This area is a strong suit for Mitt, and one that does not involve any sort of past flip flops or policy changes.  His answers should give him a bump among social conservatives who are inspired by terms like American Exceptionalism.

Newt at one point had to school the moderators on war versus criminal law.  In some ways this debate seemed frustrating for Newt, but that is an aspect of him his followers often like to see.  Newt brings the fight to the moderators and to the left and usually wins.  Many of his answers were right on, but others were somewhat vague.  One thing that Newt will lose points for is how loosely he called for covert operations in countries like Iran and Syria.  This is something Newt has brought up as a policy in debates and speeches in the past, but is something better left unsaid.

Jon Huntsman did well in the debate.  The question on a tradewar with China is a favorite of most media moderators because it gives them a chance to toss Huntsman an easy softball.    Foreign policy hits many of Huntsman’s strong points without touching many of the issues that conservatives hate him for.  It won’t matter though, Huntsman is done.

The Bad

Santorum did pretty well.  He has the unfortunate bad luck of being a candidate on the back end of two long wars and sharing a policy that sounds eerily like Bush’s.  On the other hand, Santorum seemed to be saying that we need to keep funding Pakistan and being their friend because they have a Nuke.  True or not, Santorum is not going to win American hearts saying implying that we must borrow from China to pay off Pakistan to be our friend.

I have a feeling that media moderators purposefully cut Paul’s debate time short on debates like this to get his supporters riled up.  Get ready, we are going to hear about that for the next week or so.  Paul didn’t do bad for most of the debate, but some of his stances are really not correct.  The idea that the United States must capture a citizen who has declared war on the United States and bring them in to face civilian court, or that non-uniformed terrorists have any sort of rights under US law is wrong and violates precedent.  Gingrich and Perry were absolutely right on those counts.  Paul’s supporters were being their typical selves in the debate as well, to the point where the mods had to admonish them to be respectful.  They are another liability of Paul’s with the overall GOP.

Herman Cain reminded me a lot of Rick Perry in recent debates.  Without 9-9-9 to fall back on, Cain was slow in responses, vague, and seemed as though he would happily defer to a future self, surrounded by knowledgeable generals and advisers.  That’s great, but that is not leadership.  In that respect, Huntsman showed up Cain, and even Gingrich, when he said if a nuke was loose in Pakistan he would secure it.  Cain really did not give a performance that screamed “I am a leader”.  Instead, each response sounded like “How can I answer this without ruining my campaign”.

The Ugly

Michele Bachmann continues to be unimpressive and unmemorable.  She scored some points rebutting Ron Paul, but seemed to spend most of the night trying to get the moderators to let her respond to other candidates.  She also seemed to get less time.  However, I will give her a great deal of credit for her answers on ways to trim military spending without hurting the military.

Rick Perry still doesn’t debate well.  And once again he found himself as the butt of several jokes, made both by the moderators, himself, and Senator Graham.  Perry’s idea of zero based budgeting for foreign aide is a great idea, but the only reason it’s his is because he got to say it first.  Gingrich and Romeny both articulated it better when Perry was done.

But allow me a Newt Gingrich moment to say this.  The real loser was Barack Obama.  The candidates made it clear, once again, that every single one of them would run foreign policy better than Obama.  Several drove home the point that Obama had a range of good choices and bad choices and made all the bad ones and none of the good ones.  The only ambivalent candidate who actually seemed to end up on Obama’s side for some things was Ron Paul.  This is one of the aspects of Newt Gingrich’s leadership because he has focused these debates on defeating Barack Obama, and when Newt sets the tone the other candidates usually follow.

Mindless Media Madness vs. Reality

Another Republican Presidential Debate is in the books and another mind-bogglingly clueless post-debate analysis from the media has followed. Let’s not even get into the utter uselessness of the so-called fact checking that can’t even grasp the simple concept of static vs. dynamic scoring. The fact is that so much of the media is so invested in their story that they won’t let the facts get in the way.

Again and again, we have seen the media name the winners of the debates only to be proven wrong by the people who watched them. The media called Romney the winner of the last debate, but I called it for Cain. I was not alone in my thoughts as Cain followed that debate with a straw poll victory and a rise in the polls. The media was blindsided, both the left-leaning and right-leaning media outlets. Tonight I am calling the debate for Gingrich. The mind-numbingly obtuse media analysis equated Gingrich’s success tonight with occasional applause for the JV soccer team. They will be proven wrong once again.

They also focused on the ‘heat’ of the exchanges. They revel on the candidates attacking each other. To them, this is all political theater where issues don’t matter as much as soundbites and personalities. The dumbing down of America begins with the dolts in the main stream media. Their lack of any real knowledge on issues leaves them parroting mindless slogans and focusing on hair cuts. I wouldn’t trust most of them to cover a Snuggie fashion show, let alone serious fiscal, foreign affairs and political issues. So while they report the winners as whoever they think are the hottest names, the reality is quite different. Motivated voters, particularly motivated conservatives, are trendsetters not followers. Chanting “Yes We Can” doesn’t send thrills up their legs. They want substance and leadership. So here is a run-down of the reality beyond the mindless media madness.

Gingrich Wins New Hampshire DebateGingrich has been following a fairly safe strategy to date of remaining aloof from the infighting while basically mocking all the current Obama policies as not even worth discussing because they are so bad. Tonight he was more aggressive and didn’t let the media moderators get away with giving him no time. He insisted he be allowed to speak and he connected on issue after issue. While some may criticize him for not knocking out other candidates, I believe he made the biggest tactical move of the race so far when he picked the best one or two things from every other candidate during one of his answers. That showed that he can pick the best solutions from multiple sources and be a true consensus leader. Maybe that is how he would govern and maybe it isn’t, but the appearance of true leadership combined with the subtle lumping of all the other candidates as either one trick ponies or only party right was a major victory in how Gingrich will be perceived by voters.

Perry, on the other hand, has only weakened himself further. Each debate comes with Rick Perry having remembered to talk about one thing and one thing only. This time it was a less catchy version of drill, baby, drill. I was reminded of the Bush-Kerry town hall debate in which Bush stumbled through an entire series of questions repeating one variation or another of “it’s hard work”. While a President cannot be down into every detail, he also can’t just be big picture. Successful Presidents have advisers they can trust but know enough detail to provide both the necessary oversight and the public face to often complicated policy matters. Perry just doesn’t seem to have that ability. I rate him as ‘all hat, no cattle’ and while I think he’ll stick around for quite awhile, his chances of victory are very slim. Of course there could be another backroom deal like the one between Huckabee and McCain in the last election that resulted in the disastrous nomination of media McCain, so Perry can’t be counted out entirely.

Cain has managed to avoid becoming the next Bachmann and will not be a quick flash in the pan candidate. However, I would wager that the majority of voters share my concern about adding a new taxing authority to the feds. Santorum hit the issue squarely on the head and all the explanations in the world won’t fix the underlying problem with the 9 9 9 plan: the people don’t trust the government. When trust in the government is so low, it will be nearly impossible for Cain to convince people that they can trust the government not to abuse the new taxing power in the future. I do believe Cain’s campaign will begin to fizzle as the 9 9 9 plan just can’t be trusted because it relies too much on government being responsible. When his campaign does begin to falter, keep an eye out for those black ‘leaders’ who attacked Cain for not being ‘black enough’ to blame his decline on the GOP being too racist to elect the black candidate (who suddenly will be ‘black enough’ for them then).

Romney needs no lengthy summary. He is staying on track and made mincemeat out of Huntsman and Perry. There still is no enthusiasm for Romney like there was at CPAC in 2008, but he could get it back especially if the pack thins out and his opposition’s weaknesses can be packaged as unconservative – such as Perry’s anmesty-like policies were in the previous debate.

Paul has no one to blame but himself for tonight’s poor performance. When given the chance to ask any question of any candidate, he indulged his Fed fetish and attacked Cain without even having the sources he was using in the attack at his fingertips. The moderators rarely give him a chance to speak and when they do it is invariably only on the Fed or foreign wars. His failure to use the opportunity to expand his campaign to a broader message was a huge mistake. His biggest win of the night was the bit of praise and agreement he gained from Gingrich. His core followers aren’t going anywhere, so neither is he. But, those numbers will not grow if he helps the media package him as basically a one-issue candidate with a sour attitude and with no positive vision to offer.

Bachmann improved her performance this time and will steal back some of the support she lost to Perry. What many think was a softball question to her from Romney, I view differently. I think Romney was trying to make her look like a shallow, one-issue candidate as a way to push out the attack from the right and ultimately leave him looking more conservative with Bachmann out of the race. I think she successfully turned that back on him and his plan to make her look unelectable failed. Although, honestly, I don’t think she stands a chance.

Santorum, I must admit, is a candidate for whom I have no love. As a Pennsylvania conservative, I supported him when he ran for the Senate and then opposed him when he ran for re-election. I was not alone along conservatives who left his side, which is why he lost. He may appeal to the Huckabee crowd on social issues, but he voted for big spending over and over. Now, when he is running for office, he says he made a mistake and wouldn’t do what he did if he had it to do over again. I don’t believe him. I feel his credibility is even weaker than Romney’s. He may pick up some more endorsements after his fairly good performance tonight, but those endorsements are as much a ball and chain on his campaign as they are a boost. They tie him to neo-conservatives at a time when most Republicans are headed in the opposite direction. Social issues are of less importance and fiscal conservatism is of more importance. That’s the opposite of Santorum’s record in the Senate and that is a hard hurdle to overcome.

Huntsman should just back it up now and take a vacation. His attempts to attack Romney backfired miserably. His attempt to parlay his experience as Ambassador to China on the currency devaluation issue also failed miserably. His attempts to be funny were only marginally more humorous than Al Gore. In the post-debate questioning, he said that government should put caps on how large banks should be allowed to get and put the cap at somewhere around the size Goldman-Sachs was in 1995-98. He’ll be doing damage control for weeks. Pack it up sir, you’re done.

The end result: Romney, Cain and Gingrich will be the new top 3. Perry will fall. Bachmann will rally slightly. Huntsman will seriously weigh leaving the race. Paul and Santorum will continue to only play to their existing bases of support. As a final note, Romney’s campaign blundered enormously by having Christie endorse him today. It didn’t help the debate (which wasn’t even really watchable by most voters) and was generally wasted by coming at this moment. Saving that media fascination with Christie until his endorsement would have potentially separated Romney from a smaller pack a month or two from now would have been smarter. It will be lost in the debate spin and leaves Romney with nothing to counter a Palin endorsement later of someone else.

%d bloggers like this: