The dust has settled on the 2012 Presidential Debates and each campaign is busy spinning the final debate to declare victory for their side. But the truth is, with Presidential debates it is very hard to declare one candidate or the other the “winner”. There are no scorekeepers, no referees to decipher face from fiction in real time and there are no metrics by which we can measure one candidate against the other.
The exception, of course, is when one candidate really has a poor performance and the other did well. The first debate was an anomaly. Barack Obama walked in with an “I got this” attitude. And rightly so. Prior to the first debate, the momentum and the trends favored Obama. And while he had not been able to break the 50% mark in most polls, the Electoral Map was so heavily in Obama’s favor that Mitt Romney faced long odds and an uphill battle. And while a knockout punch would have been great in round one, Romney didn’t really have to have one in the initial face to face, but he would have been happy to have one.
Some may disagree, but the first debate was a solid win for Romney, but not a knock out. The challenger had a clear win, but the fight was far from over.
But unfortunately for President Obama, his overconfidence and laziness in preparing for the debate allowed Romney to show the voters that he was presidential. Not only presidential, but a viable alternative to Obama and someone with far more business and economic experience.
Round one allowed Romney to show America (and the world) that he was intelligent, articulate and capable. It also gave Romney the opportunity to show people that he was not the cartoon-like persona that Obama and the Mainstream Media had been telling readers and viewers he was. He actually showed a likable personality and his caring, giving nature. All the hype that the Obama team had built up claiming Romney was only out for himself and his “rich” friends was dispelled in the first debate handily. And while the victor was undoubtedly Romney in debate 1, the measure of his margin of victory did not show up until days later, as all of the polls showed a big movement towards Romney. Most importantly, his “likability” and the “gender gap” with women closed in a hurry. In most polls, he was still behind Obama with women and Obama was still seen as likable, but so was Romney.
In the first debate Romney sold himself to the undecided and persuadable voters that he could be president. A lot of people were not sure and simply did not know enough about him prior to the debate. So round one was both a decisive victory for Romney and more importantly, he moved the momentum in his favor.
The Vice Presidential debate was seen by the left as an opportunity to “save face”. Obama had severely disappointed the base with his initial performance and it was up to Joe Biden to punch back. And he did. After the VP debate, the Democrats and left leaning media was enthusiastic and they all declared Biden the victor and looked for the polls to reverse the Romney momentum.
And the polls continued moving toward Romney. Democrats were baffled. But all Biden managed to do was stop the grumbling and disillusionment from the base. But Biden’s laughter, smirks and chortles were seen by the rest of the voters as inappropriate. Or worse, creepy.
The movement towards Romney did not stop.
The second debate saw a far more energized Obama. A confrontational, belligerent and aggressive President doing his best to intimidate Romney. He scored some points this time, but so did Romney. They verbally jabbed, punched and counter-punched for 90 minutes. At times, it looked as if they may actually get physical. Romney was not intimidated and managed to get out the dismal record that Obama and the Mainstream Media have been downplaying or simply hiding. Obama did much better in Debate 2, but most would agree that the debate was a draw.
But in reality, Romney proved that he was not intimidated by Obama, he held his own and gave as good as he got. For those that were convinced in the first debate that Romney could be President, his second performance did nothing to reverse that, and while the polls showed the momentum slowed, it did not stop and it certainty did not reverse the momentum for Romney.
So going in to last night’s debate, Romney had the momentum and trends going in his direction. His likability was up and most voters would agree that they could see either man leading the nation.
Many of the pundits and the campaign surrogates for Obama believed that foreign policy was Obama’s strong suit. How quickly thy forget that only four short years ago, it was Obama that did not match up with John McCain on foreign policy issues, so Obama picked Joe Biden to bolster his foreign policy credentials.
The Obama team planned to use this final debate on foreign policy to both play up Obama’s foreign policy prowess (I got Bin Laden) and paint Romney was a Bush / Cheney clone and warmonger.
Early in the debate, Romney gave a tip of the hat to Obama for killing Bin Laden. And Obama still brought it up numerous times, looking desperate and petty. And he found Romney to be anything but a warmonger as Obama tried time and again to pull Romney into an admission that he wanted to start more wars. And Romney didn’t fall for it.
Romney also avoided the bickering and stuck to a world view that focused on the big picture while Obama tried to personally attack Romney – something the former Massachusetts Governor often pointed out.
But Romney knew where his strengths lie. It’s still the economy stupid! No more wars, just sound economic policy at home and job growth. Peace through economic strength (and military strength).
The winner of the third debate is irrelevant. Obama needed a knockout punch and he didn’t get it. The polls will not reverse after this debate. Romney did nothing to hurt his chances with the voters.
Romney’s performance last night will most likely be seen by women as positive. He was the adult in the room. He was not going to get mean and nasty, preferring to allow Obama to be seen as the argumentative one. Women will find his stance on avoiding wars a plus.
And young people who have been scared by the Obama campaign into believing that Romney wants to start wars so his “rich” friends can profit are now going have to balance a President Romney who promised to end the wars and create 12 million jobs with President Obama who has made it impossible for the young to find good jobs and plans to keep on doing what he has been doing for the next four years.
Romney crafted a masterful debate performance that will persuade women and young people that he has their best interest at heart and that he has an economic plan that will create jobs. While Obama did his best to batter and smear Romney, the challenger was presidential, confident and may well have used Obama’s aggressive over-pursuit tactics to convince women and young people that Obama is too mean and too weak on the economy to deserve their vote this time.
And Obama never saw it coming.
Mitt Romney put in the perfect performance in all three debates that combined to appeal to every group of voters in America with the exception of African-Americans. The black vote is nearly monolithic in their support for Obama and while most have suffered far worse than any other ethnic group under Obama, with or without their vote, their lot under a Romney presidency will surely improve.
The polls will tell the tale over the next few days, and the final poll on November 6, 2012 will be the final arbiter of the case each man made to be president, but based on the three debates, Romney made the better case and achieved everything he possible could from the opportunity. It was a masterful trio of strategic planning and execution that should be good enough to put Romney over the top on election day.