Where was this president on October 3? Maybe the switch in tie color helped change the president’s personality.
Going into tonight few would argue that the pressure was not on President Obama. After the first debate, Governor Romney received a temporary, and thus far, sustained boost in the polls. Another poor performance by the president would add to, and perhaps cement, the narrative that the president simply doesn’t get it when it comes to running a country with a still struggling economy.
The task before the president tonight was threefold: be more energetic, respond more directly to policy statements by Romney, and personally relate to the audience and individual questioners.
On the first question of the night from a college student about finding a job, the president seemed to accomplish all three. The follow up exchange between the president and Governor Romney characterized the divisiveness most of us expected to see in the first presidential debate.
One of the sharpest exchanges of the first half of the debate on energy policy led to a shout out to Iowa’s wind energy sector. George W. Bush also got a nod tonight, and Governor Romney used the opportunity to draw stark contrasts (probably not a bad move if the idea is to appeal to undecided or Independent voters).
On style points, Romney delivered another strong performance (he was energetic, challenged the president directly, and seemed to “connect” with voters in the audience). President Obama delivered an equally strong performance, one for the moment that certainly halts the growing conversation that he is outmatched by Governor Romney. In particular, during the last twenty minutes of the debate on the topic of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi the president appeared very presidential.
While it’s fun to get caught up in the heat of the moment, we have to remember that debates don’t matter for a large chunk of electorate. A debate doesn’t matter for strong partisans (your candidate always wins), nor does ninety-five percent of the debate matter for single-issue voters. If you believe in green energy, you think Obama won, if your issue is reducing the deficit you think Romney won.
One more debate to go. Expect the polls to remain competitive if not narrow by one or two percentage points before October 22.
One final note: wouldn’t it be cool if the candidates got to bring their favorite recliners to sit in rather than trying to half-sit, half-stand in tall chairs? It is hard to look cool when you don’t know whether to sit or stand.
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This post was written by Chris Larimer on October 16, 2012