Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Obama-Romney debate

That video doesn't make it seem so bad for Obama after all, does it?

I had two experiences watching that debate last night. The first, with the sound on, left me thoroughly depressed and thinking that Obama had blown it. My tweets reflected that reaction.

The second, later on, with the sound off, left me more optimistic. I guess I missed the parts that James Fallows watched with the sound off:
If you had the sound turned off, Romney looked calm and affable through more of the debate than Obama did, and the incumbent president more often looked peeved. Romney's default expression, whether genuine or forced, was a kind of smile; Obama's, a kind of scowl. I can understand why Obama would feel exasperated by these claims and arguments. Every president is exasperated by what he considers facile claims about what he knows to be impossibly knotty problems. But he let it show.
My take was that Romney was worse with the sound off. If you think about how things have been going for him lately, the 47% video clip has been truly damning. The idea that he'd say one thing behind closed doors and yet say another in public is underpinning his campaign, it's about trust. His default smile expression didn't help dissuade that perception. He appeared to answer quickly, almost unthinkingly. Like he was trying too hard, too caffeinated. When you combine that impression with some of the consensus that he told a few whoppers last night, then he may not have done so well after all.

Obama did seem peeved at times and the note taking made him look less in charge. But he also didn't have the canned look that Romney had. Obama is the one who is criticized as being too smooth. Not last night. He looked like he was thinking on his feet, he was more deliberative, he had a more earnest quality than Romney.

Factor in the economic substance of the debate and the real world context of Americans concerned about the economy, jobs...and I'm not so sure Obama was poorly served by coming off as the one who was working harder as opposed to the guy who seemed more slick. I certainly don't think it was as bad as Andrew Sullivan was portraying it to be.

A lot of this analysis can be overdone too. This part of the New York Times' lead report on it rang true:
But for all of the anticipation, and with less than five weeks remaining until Election Day, the 90-minute debate unfolded much like a seminar by a business consultant and a college professor. Both men argued that their policies would improve the lives of the middle class, but their discussion often dipped deep into the weeds, and they talked over each other without connecting their ideas to voters.
Anyway, there's lots of opinion to be had.

P.S. Best thing to come out of the debate, the Big Bird memes that were spawned by Romney saying he loved Big Bird but would kill PBS. Maybe Big Bird will get the last laugh.