Thursday Reads: The Morning AfterPosted: October 4, 2012 | |
OK, I don’t drink, but I still feel hung over. That debate last night was pathetic. Romney babbled incoherently, but sounded smooth. Obama made sense and gave specifics, but sounded hesitant and herky-jerky. We’ll have to wait and see what happens to the polls, but the consensus of the pundits and liberals on Twitter is that Romney won this one. I think Obama forgot he is the president and acted like a challenger. I simply cannot believe that neither Obama nor Jim Lehrer asked Romney about his “47 percent” remarks!
Anyway, I still have a nasty cold, I’m discouraged, and tired, so I’m just hoping this post will make sense. I’m going to link to some early reactions to the debate and leave it at that.
Jennifer Granholm has predicted a couple of times that Obama would lose the first debate. From Time’s Swampland:
You recently predicted that Obama would lose the first debate. Then you suggested that the media might assign him a loss whether he deserves a win or not. Can you explain that?
The first time, I mentioned two reasons why I think he’s going to lose. One is, he’s not in debate shape in the same way that Romney is. But more importantly, the media does not like a lopsided race, and it’s appearing to be lopsided at the moment. So in order to sustain the race, I think there will be a narrative of the comeback-kid Mitt Romney.
The candidates have been busy playing the low-expectations game. Are you just helping Obama be self-deprecating?
No, I’m just looking at it purely from who’s in practice and who’s not in practice … Part of that might be that the incumbent is confronted, on this national stage, in a way that he is not usually confronted … I don’t discount that he’s a good speaker, but he does speak in paragraphs, and debates are not the place to do that.
She was right. Now for some media reactions.
No question, Mitt Romney’s extensive debate preparation is paying off. At least in the first half of the debate, he seemed more emotionally connected than President Obama with the material — making jokes and self-deprecating remarks and even invoking Big Bird in a discussion about the deficit and budget priorities….
Then, looking at moderator Lehrer, Romney said, “I’m sorry, Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS…. I like PBS, I love Big Bird — I actually like, you too — but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for.”
IMO, Romney looked energetic, but he wasn’t funny. Frankly, the biggest problem for anyone debating Mitt Romney is that he is the most amazing liar ever. How do you debate someone who lies constantly and even tells conflicting lies? The only way it would be possible is if you had a moderator. Jim Lehrer was completely ineffectual. Just wait till we have to see Bob Schieffer try it. He’s around 80 isn’t he? I don’t think Lehrer is quite that old, and I think he lost consciousness a couple of times last night.
Ben Smith at Buzzfeed: How Mitt Romney Won The First Debate
Mitt Romney, trailing in the polls, needed to prove tonight that he could stand on stage with President Barack Obama as an equal and a plausible president of the United States.
He did that in the crucial first 40 minutes of Wednesday night’s debate, addressing Obama respectfully, even warmly — but then tangling with a sometimes hazy and professorial Obama on taxes and deficits.
“You don’t just pick the winners and losers — you pick the losers,” he told Obama of his energy investments, sliding time and time again into a second person singular address calculated to level the rhetorical playing field.
Romney departed dramatically from the hard conservatism of his primary campaign, downplaying the scope of his tax cuts.
“There will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit,” he said, without fully explaining how he’d accomplish that.
In other words, Romney lied and neither the moderator nor the incumbent president challenged him on his lies. Obama was incredibly passive.
Talking Points Memo: Obama Supporters: Which Obama Was That?
The early consensus on the debate among the pundit class: Mitt Romney helped himself a lot with a strong first debate performance, President Obama didn’t. And that included plenty of commentators supportive of Obama as well.
“It looked like Mitt Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn’t want to be there,” Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville said. He later added Obama did not bring his “A game.”
Alex Castellanos, a former Romney advisor who has often been critical of his campaign, said he was surprised by his “very effective” performance.
Many were surprised that Obama appeared reluctant to go on offense, never mentioning many of his own campaign’s attacks on Romney over Bain Capital or his recent leaked remarks dismissing 47 percent of Americas “victims.” In general, commentators suggested he appeared less comfortable than Romney onstage.
Josh Marshall wrote something I heard Al Sharpton say on MSNBC last night. Romney committed himself to a lot things that are going to get him in trouble in the next few days when the pundits get over his surface performance and look at what he actually said.
Two things happened in this debate. Romney had the energy and focus, a long series of arguments packed and tight to dish out in the debate. He didn’t get distracted. He had a game plan he stuck to. What struck me a lot of times through the debate was that Obama seemed pained. He didn’t seem happy. And people like seeing happy people….
Romney’s focus though came at the cost of a few key things.
He basically tossed aside his own tax plan or said he would if his numbers didn’t add up. But then he insisted that he could find enough loopholes to close to afford a $5 trillion tax cut for upper income earners. These are more numbers on the table. That’s really what most of the debate was about — budget numbers. Romney insisted with a straight face that up was down….
The numbers simply don’t add up. Over a few news cycles that can build up really fast. He says he’ll push massive upper income tax cuts and those have to come at the cost of much higher deficits or big tax hikes for middle income people. His campaign agenda is based on a massive deception.
That’s the vulnerability Romney brings out of this debate. And it may be bigger than people realize.
Greg Sargent: A good night for Mitt Romney, but was it really enough?
Mitt Romney had a very good debate tonight. Though debates often reinforce existing perceptions, Romney took steps towards reversing his image as an out of touch plutocrat. During the extended jousts of numbers crunching, he humanized himself in an unexpected way — by converting his boardroom aura from something cold and aloof into an aura of earnestness. He skillfully played the part of the technocratic centrist he used to be and whose balanced approach to policy and government he has completely abandoned. Romney also landed clear blows when indicting the Obama recovery. He seemed particularly on message in claiming that the proof that Obama’s government centric policies had failed could be found in the current state of the economy.
Obama missed key opportunities.When invoking Romney’s suggestion that kids should borrow money from their parents to pay for college, he was far too polite and discursive and didn’t make the moment stick. His defense of Obamacare took too long to make the point that Romney, in repealing the law, would take insurance away from millions without replacing it with anything.
That said, Obama won some understated victories. He won the battle over Medicare; Romney was effectively defined by that exchange as Mr. Voucher. Obama did a decent job in exposing Romney’s lack of specificity on many of the issues that were discussed tonight, and tied them together into a larger pattern of evasiveness on Romney’s part.
Ed Kilgore: Spin Room
I gather from brief glances at Twitter and initial reaction at NBC that Mitt won pretty big on style points.
A lot of progressives are beside themselves that Obama didn’t mention Bain Capital, didn’t mention the 47%, didn’t mention the Ryan Budget (except indirectly), didn’t mention inequality, didn’t mention abortion/contraception, didn’t mention immigration. Very heavy emphasis, as I noted, on Mitt’s “vagueness.” ….
You know, I’m often a bad judge of these things because I really don’t give much of a damn about “energy levels” or “aggressiveness,” and I tend to care a lot when I know a candidate is lying through his or her teeth. But if viewers thought Obama was phoning it in, that will matter, and it will matter a lot more if they are being told by every talking head in Christendom that Romney won big.
The $64,000 question is whether this will have an impact on actual candidate preferences, which have been amazingly stable.
Jonathan Chait: The Return of Massachusetts Mitt.
Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity – and, when necessary, making them up – to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off-guard.
Romney was able to take advantage of the fact that Obama has a record, and he does not. Obama has had to grapple with trade-offs, and Romney has not. So Romney is a candidate of a 20% cut in tax rates, a new plan to cover people with preexisting conditions, and higher defense spending, and he will accomplish it all by eliminating federal funding for PBS. He would not accept that his proposal would result in any tradeoffs at all – no lower funding for education, no reductions in Medicare for anybody currently retired. He insisted his plan would not cut taxes for the rich, which is false. He described his proposal to allow people with continuous health insurance to keep it – a right that, as Obama already noted, already exists, and is therefore a meaningless promise – as a plan to cover all people with preexisting conditions.
Romney did not waste a breath. Obama wasted many, with “uhs” and long, wonky discursions. He went on long, detailed riffs defending his policies, with attacks on Romney few and far between. Romney added little to his longstanding indictment of Obama, but defined himself far more effectively than he has before.
I do think the instantaneous, echo chamber reaction that is handing Romney an overwhelming victory is overstated. Romney made a huge error selling his Medicare plan, promising, “if you’re around 60, you don’t need to listen any further.” It was a moment he went from smooth to oily – when you urge voters to stop paying attention, and especially on an issue where they start off distrusting you, it heightens the distrust. Obama replied, “if you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this will affect you.”
Okay, that should be enough to get you started. I’m already not quite as upset as I was a little while ago, because I think it’s true that Romney is going to be confronted with all the lies and backtracks he pulled in this debate.
So what are you reading and blogging about today? This is an open thread–you don’t have to discuss the debate.