I considered staying up last night to watch the first presidential debate of the election, but decided against it. I’d seen the huge backlash against Romney for his comments about the 47% on Twitter, and I’d seen his popularity tank in comparison to Obama. A CNN poll from last week put Obama 5% ahead of his lumbering rival. Why watch something that would only confirm the inevitable, I asked? Romney was primed to fail; Obama primed to soar. The world had already confirmed the election results.
But then, shockingly, I awoke to blogs and reports claiming that Obama had been “Absolutely Destroyed” by the Romster. Boring attempts to win readers, I assured myself.
But the headlines continued to roll in.
What else could I do? I sat down and watched the entire hour and half. You only had to watch Obama respond to one question to see that the rhetoric was, actually, really close to the mark. Obama didn’t come across as the “most brilliant communicator in living memory”. In fact, he came across as a tired sage that was unsure of his lines.
I’ve got to make a few things clear before we go any further. Romney has the clear advantage in that he isn’t actually employed at the moment so can spend hours refining his attacks. He has the advantage in that he can make up whatever bullshit he wants and claim that this is him catching the president out (“Um, Obama mate, that plan you just attacked – the one that I’ve been supporting throughout the entire campaign – just disappeared as of 5 minutes ago, so you’re wrong. I’m a centrist now”). And finally, Romney literally has nothing to lose. As in, people already think he’s unlikable. There’s no chance that an aggressive strategy will turn off those people that were going to vote for him because they’d love to have a beer with him. In short, Romney was prepped to hand it to the Prez.
And hand it to him he did. Across the entire debate Obama only appeared half fluid on one question – the defence of Obamacare. For most of his responses he’d be staring at his notes, wading through answers so dense that even his most ardent supporters (yep) lost track of what he was saying. Romney’s incredibly self assured responses to the meagre attacks thrown over resulted in an inability for the President to maintain eye contact. At times, it looked like Obama was cowering.
Everybody knows what the debates are. They’re essentially propaganda platforms in which no score keeper listens to what’s said – just how it’s said. That is, of course, unless you make a ridiculous gaffe (Ford, sorry bud). Obama was clearly so keen to maintain his nice, presidential image that he sat back, obviously not devoting as much time to preparation as he’d done 4 years ago. That may have cost him dearly. Just watch this video – Obama makes some incredibly strong points, but in such an untraditionally uncharismatic manner that Romney’s simple and confident counter appears golden in comparison.
The next few debates should be equally compelling. For the first time in a few months, it looks like we actually have a fight on our hands.