Skip to comments.Bob Shrum: Romney Won the Debate but it Was No Game Changer
Posted on 10/05/2012 4:54:20 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Unhappily I was right: Mitt Romney couldand didwin the first debate. But Im not eloquently panicked, as Andrew Sullivan was during his live blog of Obamas defeat in Denver. The president could have put the election away; but its emphatically overstated, if entirely understandable, to suggest the oppositethat [he] may even have lost the election with the wrong strategy [at] the wrong moment.
Yes, CNNs instant survey showed Romney winning 67 percent to 25 percent; CBS reported a lesser landslide of 46 to 22. But after a few harrowing days for Democrats, something deeper than the numbers game may become clear. Obama actually advanced arguments, and elicited concessions from Romney, that can hold or move constituencies that are key to his success in November.
It was hard to see, or credit, anything like that as you watched the drama unfold on television. And it was drama. Romneys was primarily a victory of performance art. He was energetic, aggressive, carefully respectful of the president, if not of the truth. He looked in command throughout the night, almost flawlessly spewing out well-crafted answers, rehearsed and memorized over the course of the most intense presidential debate prep in American history.
Obviously warned that the random thought that popped into his mind shouldnt come out of his mouth, he only had two awkward, seemingly spontaneous moments. To back up the false charge that the president was the one twisting the facts, Romney ventured a lame joke suggesting that his sons had been habitual liars, so Im used to people saying something thats not always true. It was a cringe-inducing departure from script. (Or the advisors who recommended it had temporarily lost their bearings.)
Then there was the Romneys promise to defund public television and roast Big Bird for Thanksgivingwhich isnt worth a decimal point in terms of deficit reduction, but sufficed as a pre-planned proof that he could be specific. But then the candidate, who dissed moderator Jim Lehrer in more ways than one, added with a self-satisfied smirk that he liked the decades-long face of PBSs hallmark nightly news showeven if he was consigning him to video oblivion. Cringe again.
Lehrer, who is already retired, was not only a pushover, but an interrogator from the pre-modern ageand that too played to Romneys advantage. The debate was supposed to be about domestic issues. But in Lehrers world, that didnt include women, African-Americans, Hispanic and the LGBT communityor any of their concerns. The Republican, who had relentlessly pandered to extort his nomination from a skeptical extremist base, didnt have to repeat or defend his voter-alienating views on questions ranging from immigration to contraception. I blame Lehrer for that, but not for losing control of the debate. I felt sorry for him.
There are signs in the research of Stan Greenberg, a Democrat who in my experience never shies from hard numbers or hard truths, that while Mitt prevailed in this first round, the debate was no game-changer. In a focus group of 45 swing voters, the dial testingwhich rates the candidates as they speakand the follow-up discussions showed Romney improving his personal appeal and a number of important attributes. But he didnt crack the fundamental structure of the race: [H]e mostly consolidated undecided voters who leaned Republican He did not cut into Obamas weak support.
Theres a reason for this, a reason that was all but lost in the cacophony of regret and criticism directed at Obama even before the closing statements began. Romneys strategy of ceaseless deceithe doesnt have a $5 trillion tax cut, Obamacare mandates the rationing of health services, and so on across the boardhas become a fact-checkers forest of fabulation. He will pay a price for that in coming days and coming debates. But for the Americans who tuned in, and plainly did decide Romney put on a better show, the more salient point is that the president came across better on the merits of things that matter in their livesand that will matter in the voting booth. It was almost unnoticed by pundits, but Obama drew dividing lines that can make a decisive difference.
He dismissed Romneys claim that Republican plans wouldnt affect health services for todays seniors. For example, Obama explained, seniors will pay $600 more a year for prescription drugs if Obamacare is repealed. The president also confounded Romneys assumption that what counts here is just the reaction of those who are already retired---and instead spoke directly to 50 and 55 year olds. Do they want to replace Medicare with Vouchercare for private insuranceand pay over $6000 more a year for their coverage? The Romney-Ryan Medicare proposal is stunningly unpopularand Romney left the debate firmly lashed to its leaden weight.
When Mitt denied that his tax cut costs $5 trillion, the president shot back that Romneys big, bold idea was: Never mind. More significant was the charge that the Republican would raise taxes on the middle class to offset massive cuts for the wealthy. Romney denied it, but refused to specify what loopholes or deductions he would eliminate to finance his plan. Obama wondered if his opponent was keeping his plans secret because theyre too good for the middle class. The natural reaction of people is to suspect that a politician who wont tell them the details knows candor would hurt him because they would pay the price. That instinctive distrust applies especially to Mr. 47 percent.
On the economy and job creation, Romney essentially prosecuted his referendum strategy: If youre dissatisfied with things, why not try me? The president raised the specter of a return to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place. He compared the Clinton record on jobs and growth to Bushs. He was a touch professorial: Math, common sense, and our history prove that the Romney way wont work. It would have been better if he had said it more memorably. The Republicans ask whether Americans want another four years like the last years. Obama could have asked: Do you want another eight years like the Bush-Cheney yearsbecause Governor Romney has the same policies and the same advisors? But at a time when confidence is rising that American is recovering, Obama did sound a warning which resonates: We cant afford to go back.
There were other places where Obama scored. For working class voters, especially in the Midwest battlegrounds, he assailed the tax incentives for shopping jobs overseas. Romney denied such benefits existed; if they did, he said, he needs a a new accountantpresumably because he would have taken advantage of them. This is not convincingand it implicitly reinforces the dark side of the Romney image. The GOP nominee also concocted a claim that his health plan would cover pre-existing conditionsand Obama then explained why it wouldnt.
The president made the mistake of saying that he and Romney essentially agreed on Social Securitywhere did that come from?even though Romney has supported privatization and his running mate has called Social Security a collectivist system. But more generally, if less remarked amid the jeremiads about Obamas bad night, he laid down markers that will direct voters toward him. And his opponent, despite his aggressive tone, at times all but surrenderedfor example, agreeing that he was for voucherizing Medicare, and then defending the idea.
The polls over the next week will tell us more about the real impact of the debate. If Greenberg is right, there will be some tightening as undecideds who likely would have voted Republican anyway take the debate as the occasion to make their decision. The greater danger for Democrats is if Romney has persuaded Americans that he cares about people like them. The president did put barriers in his way with retirees and those nearing retirement, with the middle class and blue collar workers.
In the end, people dont vote for performance art. Its a persistent myth that Kennedy won on image and Nixon won on substance in 1960, a conclusion based on the difference in opinion between voters who watched on television and those who listened on the radio. The latter were largely rural residents who in pre-cable days had no access to TV, and who already and overwhelmingly favored Nixon.
That doesnt mean that performance is irrelevantor, to paraphrase Romney, that the president can afford two more debates like the first one. Watching it, I shared Andrew Sullivans pain. But I didnt just lament where Obama fell short; I noticed where he actually did some consequential things right.
Now the nation will intently focus on the encounters ahead, disproving the clichéd notion that the initial debate is the whole deal, or most of it. Next up is the vice-presidential face off, where Democrats have to hope Joe Biden faces down Paul Ryan. If I can venture another prediction, I think he will. And I think Barack Obama, a fourth-quarter player whos at his best when the pressure is onand it wasnt before Denverwill be fully in the game.
The president will look to and prepare for the next rounds with a defiant attitude: Bring it on. And I bet he will bring his best.
May I be the first to call you Mr. President?"
Shrum to Kerry, about 4pm election day, as the first exit poll data came in
Sounds like Shrum is trying to convince himself.
We will know if this debate had any impact starting today. If the polls don’t move in Romney’s favor after the thumping he gave Obama in the first debate, then nothing will change the trajectory of this election. As of this minute, there is not one single poll that shows this debate had any impact at all. Usually if there is a big change Rasmussen will leak the numbers to Drudge early in the morning - as of now I don’t see anything.
It wouldn’t have been a game changer had the media not written RR campaign’s obituary before the debate, based on skewed polls. Expectations on Obama was very high, while on Romney was quite low. And then, bam! Before their own eyes, Romney showed that he was the Alpha man against a petulant boy.
It gave some people on the fence or leaning on Obama a second thought.
My lord I am dizzy.. Stop the spinning.. Stop spinninggggg
I hope the left truly believes this. Romney made the case for capitalism as a moral issue. He simultaneously made the case against big government. Obama could only watch and smirk as the house of cards that liberalism has always been, tumbled to the ground.
Independent voters got to see Romney for the first time without the media filter. There were something like 70 million viewers. Of course it changed some minds. Polls or no polls, the debate had an impact.
If the polls show things moving in Romney's direction, the daily MSM polls will stop. That's how you'll know how Romney really did.
He needs a teleprompter. Sarah said it best that anyone can read a teleprompter and act, but understand what you stated is another thing.
Nah, polling is cheaper than doing real stories, investigative journalism, etc. The commission a poll, pay a few bucks, then talk about it. Kinda like the news version of realityTV. It's too cheap not to do constantly.
We are going to know over the next 72 hours if the debate really had any impact. If we don't see Rasmussen and Gallup move towards Romney after he crushed Hussein in that debate, then nothing is going to move this electorate to toss Obummer out of the White House. I am just not sure people are going to react the way we hope they will. I've had a bad feeling for quite awhile now that people WANT to like Obama too much to let him go. A debate performance, bad as his was, may simply remind a slim majority of Americans how much they like him. Counter intuitive as this is, he might even go up in some polls.
Anyway, we'll know the full story by the end of the weekend when all the polls are out.
I think the he'll be much different in the next two debates, and the press will express their astonshment at how brilliant he is. They will explain that his poor performance in the first debate was because he was just having an off day, not because his actual record for the last four years is so pathetic he couldn't make a legitimate argument to defend it.
I could be wrong about that, but we'll see.
“Bob Shrum: Romney Won the Debate but it Was No Game Changer”
Keep telling yourself that ahole.
LOL....Check Shrum’s closet for a Phototron! He’s smoking the stuff that killed Elvis!