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Was debate #1 a Pyrrhic victory? (Unintentional Laff Riot)
The Berkeley Blog ^ | October 4, 2012 | Dr. Robin Lakoff, professor of linguistics

Posted on 10/05/2012 11:53:30 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

Debate 1 is over, and the pundits have declared Mitt Romney the victor. The only remaining question is: was his victory overwhelming, or did Romney only win because Obama didn’t?

That is today’s story. But will it be the way we tell it after November 7?

On the surface it seems set in stone: Romney was crisp, Obama slow on the uptake. Romney made jokes, Obama swallowed them. Romney was the man with the plan.

But…could it be that, in the end, what happened on October 3 will stay on October 3, and have no effect on the future? Could Romney’s victory have been Pyrrhic? (Pyrrhus was the King of Epirus who, in the year 280 BCE, won a battle against the Romans but at such cost that he remarked afterward, “Another such victory and I am lost.”)

The point of presidential debates is not to win one debate, or even three, but to win the presidency. Short of risibly gross ineptitude, a less than thrilling performance in Debate 1 does not diminish a candidate’s chances. And the president’s performance, while certainly not what his supporters were envisioning, was far from grossly inept, – neither tongue-tied nor gaffe-laden – but merely no better than Romney’s, and since Romney was supposed to lose, Obama’s being no better made it seem worse, or at least worse than it actually was.

How, then, should this debate be properly evaluated? Critics can focus on either short- or long-term aftereffects. One is easy; the other, though, matters more.

The short-term: who won? The long-term: who is now in a better position to win in the end? And while there is little argument that Romney won in the short term, the president’s team may have been working within a long-term strategy, the genius of which will only become apparent on November 8. This strategy depends a great deal on harnessing the power of narrative structure and gratifying the pundits, whose job it is to spin the story of Election 2012.

The kind of narrative these tellers like is complex: one in which the path from Point A to Point B is full of unexpected twists and turns that make the teller look ingenious. The side that offers tellers the tastier narrative is the one that they will favor more and more as time goes on.

It was only a month ago that there was a simple, universal story line: the economy was in shambles, there were no jobs, the voters cared about nothing else, Romney was all but unstoppable. Then came some serious of gaffes by Romney, and the contrast between the conventions, with the Republicans emerging disorganized and bedraggled, the Democrats energized and unified. So the narrative shifted abruptly: Obama was on a winning trajectory, he was all but unstoppable.

The election is now just a month away, and to hold our attention, the narratives must shift more quickly. After the first debate, most analysts are zigzagging the narrative back: Romney is moving toward victory. So it’s not surprising that in the immediate aftermath of the debate Romney’s people are sounding ebullient.

Perhaps more surprising, so are the President and his people. The President jokingly remarked at a campaign stop on Thursday morning, “I met a very spirited person who claimed to be Mitt Romney…ha ha.” If he really believed he had lost, he would certainly not be conveying such good cheer to his audience. But his joking that the sent, and was meant to send, the message, “I may have ‘lost,’ but I have won.”

And that was a truthful message. He didn’t lose; he failed to win in the short term. So in the next two presidential debates, he will be the underdog. Romney, going in as the favorite, will have to produce performances that are not only as good as his first, but better (since the excellent “new Romney” is the new old Romney). And if in either debate the President pulls off the gloves and plays to win, he will scored much higher than if he had raised expectations in the first debate. And the closer a debate is to the election, the more of an effect it is apt to have (if in fact debate performance, except of the most extreme kind, ever has any effect at all).

Furthermore, the narrative-spinners now have their desired narrative arc wrapped up and ready to go. Today’s message: Romney’s the one. But by October 17th (or October 23rd) that could undergo a satisfactorily surprising metamorphosis to: It was the President all along (as we’ve been telling you). The narrators will look smart. This will make them feel good. That in turn will create in them goodwill toward the candidate, which can’t hurt his chances.

The President’s joke is on those analysts who see debates as decontextualized, not as part of a stream of pre-election events: the speeches, the conventions, the zingers, the gaffes….each of which, obviously or not, lends meaning to everything that precedes or follows. Romney’s “47%” gaffe continues to echo because it fits into a context created by Ann’s Cadillacs and Mitt’s $10,000 bet. Obama’s misstatements fade away fast because they don’t fit into any such prevailing narrative. Likewise, this debate will acquire meaning only as the first of three, and the one furthest from the end-game, and will have persuasive effect only as a point of comparison with what comes later. In this way, when the game is over, Obama’s performance in Debate 1 may very well be seen as the turning point today’s pundits are calling it – only it will be seen then as the turning point that Obama’s brilliant strategists created to make his victory inevitable.


TOPICS: Campaign News; Issues; Polls
KEYWORDS: 2012; academia; berkeley; debates; delusion; obama; polls; romney


1 posted on 10/05/2012 11:53:40 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Rhymes with....


2 posted on 10/05/2012 11:55:40 AM PDT by ilgipper
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

They have started to move into the next stage.

Shock, Dismay, Anger, Rationalization (This twit), and then we shock them again for fun.


3 posted on 10/05/2012 11:57:22 AM PDT by VanDeKoik
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I can see “Hope and Change” has morphed into “Hope for Change”.


4 posted on 10/05/2012 11:57:48 AM PDT by HarleyD
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To: ilgipper

Is this the same Lakoff Rush is always talking about?


5 posted on 10/05/2012 11:58:08 AM PDT by FlingWingFlyer (Sorry Algore. It was attitude, NOT altitude.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
it will be seen then as the turning point that Obama’s brilliant strategists created to make his victory inevitable.

So it was part of an ingenious strategy. This is super-max padded cell lockup derangement.

6 posted on 10/05/2012 11:59:53 AM PDT by MrDem (Founder: Democrats for Cheney/Palin 2012)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Robin Lakoff is in the 12th ring of delusional — there’s no higher level to which she can rise. Even Obama’s coming massive defeat will not register with her as a loss. She should be put on suicide alert for November 7th.


7 posted on 10/05/2012 12:01:30 PM PDT by WashingtonSource
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Excellent. Let these fools keep thinking there is some “genius” out there with a deep strategy. Election night is going to be great fun, I have my champagne ready to go.


8 posted on 10/05/2012 12:01:50 PM PDT by arrogantsob (The Disaster MUST Go. Sarah herself supports Romney.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
From the article:

"Obama’s misstatements fade away fast because they don’t fit into any such prevailing narrative. "

The REAL DEAL:


9 posted on 10/05/2012 12:03:00 PM PDT by Diogenesis (Vi veri veniversum vivus vici)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Anything to avoid admitting their god 0bama epically failed.


10 posted on 10/05/2012 12:03:59 PM PDT by MNJohnnie (Giving more money to DC to fix the Debt is like giving free drugs to addicts think it will cure them)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The Left is lost outside of their burst MSM bubble.


11 posted on 10/05/2012 12:04:51 PM PDT by Berlin_Freeper (Obama at the UN: The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Some people were born to talk in circles. Her hypotheticals, conjectures, assumptions, and postulations lead to her one and only, predetermined conclusion. She is capable of no other thoughts or reasoning. The absolute poorest kind of mind.


12 posted on 10/05/2012 12:04:51 PM PDT by Teacher317 ('Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.)
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To: FlingWingFlyer
That would be George Lakoff who is divorced from a Robin. Coincidence?
13 posted on 10/05/2012 12:05:26 PM PDT by Amagi (Chief Justice John Roberts is a traitorous weasel.)
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To: Amagi

LOL! Wouldn’t you know it! What a hoot! Thanks for the info. I always thought the person Rush talked about was a man but when they posted that picture, I really got confused.


14 posted on 10/05/2012 12:07:32 PM PDT by FlingWingFlyer (Sorry Algore. It was attitude, NOT altitude.)
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To: ilgipper
Rhymes with

You totally beat me to it!

15 posted on 10/05/2012 12:09:58 PM PDT by backwoods-engineer (My game is disruption. I will use lethal force --my vote-- in self-defense against Obama.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Oh my god that woman is FUUUUGLY. She fell off the ugly beanstalk, forget the tree.


16 posted on 10/05/2012 12:18:56 PM PDT by crazydad (-` sd)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Oh my god that woman is FUUUUGLY. She fell off the ugly beanstalk, forget the tree.


17 posted on 10/05/2012 12:21:04 PM PDT by crazydad (-` sd)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Perhaps more surprising, so are the President and his people. The President jokingly remarked at a campaign stop on Thursday morning, “I met a very spirited person who claimed to be Mitt Romney…ha ha.” If he really believed he had lost, he would certainly not be conveying such good cheer to his audience. But his joking that the sent, and was meant to send, the message, “I may have ‘lost,’ but I have won.”

Or else TOTUS is just trying to keep its job. It will spend a lot more time in the electronics storage room under President Romney.

18 posted on 10/05/2012 12:38:04 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (Big Bird is a brood parasite: laid in our nest 43 years ago and we are still feeding him.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Obama’s misstatements fade away fast because they don’t fit into any such prevailing narrative.

They fit the narrative that he's always been a complete, unmitigated failure, an empty suit, an empty chair. And that's just how those on the right and independents saw it.

For those on the left, his performance revealed him to no longer possess god-like qualities. The myth of Obama's powers of persuasion, eloquence, intelligence and cool was shattered into a thousand pieces.

That would be the new prevailing narrative, dear Robin.

19 posted on 10/05/2012 12:42:41 PM PDT by wayoverontheright
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To: KarlInOhio

Is it really possible thus person thinks jokes are only made from a position of power? Have they never heard nervous laughter? Have they never seen a comedian; not exactly life’s winners.


20 posted on 10/05/2012 12:52:57 PM PDT by Tublecane
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To: wayoverontheright

It’s weird to me that anyone could write as if no “narrative” fits Obama lying or being a bad speaker, while apparently there is one out there to cover Romney winning the debate but not really. Not that it surprises me that an Obama cheerleaders could want us to think that, but because they would argue it so blatantly and inartfully.

When they talk about “narrative,” obviously, they mean MSM narratives. Which is simply what they all tell eachother. Naturally they’d come up with all banner of stories to explain away anything good Romney does or happens to Romney. Certainly they don’t tell stories to eachother about his Obama has no clothes and isn’t a great campaigner. Firstly because they can’t stomach him losing or admit they were wrong in 08.

I get all that. But don’t come out and tell us. At least play the “old news” game: Romney winning was last week; let’s move on. Don’t talk about “narratives” which only matter to you and your friends.


21 posted on 10/05/2012 1:04:54 PM PDT by Tublecane
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To: Tublecane
But don’t come out and tell us. At least play the “old news” game: Romney winning was last week; let’s move on.

Obviously, this article was nothing but rationalization for Obama's poor performance. I really doubt Obama's people have masterminded this plan that calls for him to blow the first debate.

Obama's supporters could be correct in saying that overall this debate won't matter. The response in the aftermath of this debate puts me in mind of the first Reagan-Mondale debate where Ronald Reagan was far less than sterling in his performance leading to whispers of senility. Fortunately for him and the nation, Reagan rebounded big-time in the second debate and put those concerns to rest. It would be foolish for Romney supporters to assume that Obama couldn't have the same type of turn around, particularly with Obama's cheerleaders in the press exaggerating his performance.

22 posted on 10/05/2012 1:51:32 PM PDT by CommerceComet (Obama vs. Romney - clear evidence that our nation has been judged by God and found wanting.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

23 posted on 10/05/2012 3:04:45 PM PDT by Diogenesis (Vi veri veniversum vivus vici)
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