Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Colorado Debate

My first reactions after the debate are up at PP. Short version: Romney performed well while Obama was flat; Romney's policies come out of the debate even more muddled than before; and the whole thing was probably dull for most viewers, featuring no memorable gaffes or great lines, which might suggest it will disappear from the headlines quicker than most of these things do.

Since then, I've seen a little of what pundits are saying and the instant polls, both of which came in strongly for Romney. I wasn't sure that would be the case (on the instant polls); I didn't say anything about it over at PP, but while I thought Romney did very well in body language and demeanor while talking, I thought the split screen while Obama was talking was awful for him. And I thought that might turn up in the instant polls of viewers. In that, I was clearly wrong.

The upshot of all that is that the media flow of information for at least a bit is going to be solidly pro-Romney, which in turn will likely move the horse race polls, at least a bit. The questions coming out of it on those grounds are whether that will last long; some of that is going to be media driven with little the candidates can do about it, and some will, I think, be based on whether Team Obama will be able to counterattack on some of Romney's policy vulnerabilities. But remember that there aren't all that many undecided voters out there, so significant shifts, even in temporary bounces, are not all that likely.

Other notes:

1. I thought the debate was generally well-moderated. I pretty much like the style of sitting back and letting them go at it. It also lowers the importance of the questions, since the candidates were able to mostly talk about what they wanted to talk about. I did think Lehrer's insistence on characterizing whether the candidates agreed or not was silly, but overall that's the kind of debate moderation that I think fits best for these things.

2. On policy, the overwhelming theme of the evening was Romney's choice to basically deny all the obvious implications of any of his policy proposals. This strikes me as relatively unusual. I wasn't really in intense fact-checking mode, but generally I didn't think he was outrageous about the state of the nation or, to a lesser extent, what Obama has done in office (I'm willing to be corrected, and I did spot some, but it didn't strike me as particularly awful). However, almost every time he said that his own plan would do something it usually wouldn't, and when he denied his plan would do something it usually would. Taxes, budget, health care, financial regulation...that's what I was hearing. As I said, this strikes me as unusual

3. One more time on the polls: Barack Obama has been president for three and a half years. If you think the debate tonight was extremely important for the horse race, what you're saying is that people who have evaluated him over the course of his presidency are going to decide he's not doing a good job after all. Perhaps you saw that here, or you think we'll see it in the post-debate coverage over the next few days. I didn't.

4. Next, the Veep candidates. Might as well get this out now: Paul Ryan may do a great job next week, but while Romney came in underrated (he's always been a solid debater, as several people have pointed out), Ryan has never even been involved in a statewide debate, let alone a national one. He's coming in overrated. And Joe Biden has done a lot of these.

27 comments:

  1. "However, almost every time he said that his own plan would do something it usually wouldn't, and when he denied his plan would do something it usually would. Taxes, budget, health care, financial regulation...that's what I was hearing. As I said, this strikes me as unusual"
    This is the first post-truth candidate. He simply lies, at his leisure, and without compunction.
    The very serious question for the press is, will you all take issue with this latest round of on-the-record, on TV lies?
    Because if the press won't, then chances are much too high that we'll have a serial, unchecked and unremitting liar in the White House for four years.
    And that won't be good - for democracy, truth, or the press.

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    1. unlike Reagan, Bush II, or Nixon?

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    2. You forget Obama, Clinton, et al.

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    3. Lies, huh? You mean like Obama parroting studies on Romney's plans that have already been walked back? Or ascribing to Romney everything Ryan has proposed, even when it's out of date?

      Yeah, sure, the OTHER guy is a walking lie machine. Puh-lease.

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  2. Lehrer was terrible. He asked vague and useless questions and had no control over the conversation. I can't remember a more poorly moderated debate.

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    1. Yes. JB, that you thought this debate was well moderated just shows that you don't actually want a *debate* to be held. Which, in the greater scheme of things is fine. But in that case, doesn't make more sense to say something like: "I thought that Lehrer ironically served a greater cause by doing such a poor job at normal debate moderator duties."

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    2. "All right. Can we - can the two of you agree that the voters have a choice, a clear choice between the two...of you on Medicare?" was just the pathetic bow on top. Embarrassing.

      I know Jonathan hated David Gregory in the MA Senate debate, but apart from the preening and some inane questions I actually found it refreshing. He asked follow ups that pressed the candidates for specifics, boxed them in on certain issues, and kept the debate in control.

      For a "domestic policy debate" an infuriating number of important domestic issues were completely left out. Immigration, infrastructure, abortion, gay rights, climate change, housing - surely at least one of these is more essential than a "role of government" question that would have felt useless in a Civics 101 class.

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  4. An important point that will likely be overlooked is that the pollsters had started to pick up some possible movement towards a tighter race over the past week... It looks like the race is going to look exactly like you said it would months ago: very close, Obama barely on top. Meanwhile there were news reports that Israel is putting off military action against Iran in favor of Obamas sanctions. That's an issue that you pointed out as possibly having a big "game change" effect on the race (unlike the debates)

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  5. Jonathan, do you feel policy wise that Romney may have played all of his cards too early?

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  6. I'm seeing the stuff saying Romney won. It could easily be my partisan blinders talking, but I saw a boring draw, with Lehrer as the loser.

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    1. Can I confess that I actually thought that it was a tie and that Obama did okay too? Guess I might be like Jarvis and can't see because of partisan blinders. I watched the whole thing and then went to bed and didn't check out any social media or online stuff until this morning and was actually surprised everyone in the comentariat thinks I'm an idiot for not seeing the wreckage. True story, at work today one of my liberal co-workers was in full on "we're doomed!" mode. Then another admitted she got bored after eight, yes eight, minutes and stopped watching, which sounds pretty swing votery to me.

      And while it was taken before the debate, the new Gallup approval numbers have Obama at his highest point since 2009. So let's keep Chris Mathews shouts of catastrophe in perspective.

      http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/ground-level/archive/2012/10/local-government-innovation-is-worth-cash-this-year.shtml

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    2. Oops, wrong link:

      http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/gallup-obamas-approval-rating-reaches-54-percent-highest

      Oh and yeah I know its probably a fluke.

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  7. I was actually astonished when Romney kept saying things like"I don't know where you're getting your information but, I never said that." or "The president isn't being(essentially) truthful". Obviously these are not direct quotes but I found it frustrating that Romney was disavowing things that he has said on tape, then accused POTUS of not telling the truth. Also, Lehrer didn't do a good job. It's like he was on a bronco bull and kept falling off.

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  8. I saw it like Matt Jarvis - a draw. Romney was more aggressive and confident, while Obama was more substantively correct (though listless). But the early polling disagrees. A couple of silver linings for Obama supporters. 1. Romney said a lot of things that can be attacked in ads and subsequent debates, even though Obama did not take full advantage of them last night. 2. Last night was all about the economy, a topic that will naturally tend to put Obama on defense. He'll do better when the topics move to foreign policy and other domestic policy issues.

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  9. "On policy, the overwhelming theme of the evening was Romney's choice to basically deny all the obvious implications of any of his policy proposals. This strikes me as relatively unusual."

    I'd say that this strategy from Romney, combined with Obama's meek and halting defense of what he has done and why, made this debate quite useless in terms of two of Jonathan's debate purposes -- partisan education and representation/promise-keeping. Not sure that anyone would come away from this better knowing what Republicans and Democrats have in fact stood for over the past four years and what they should be expecting for representation in the next four years.

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  10. Romney may have won the debate, but he turned into a Democrat to do it.

    Now regulation is good. Tax cuts are not for the wealthy. And I presume he'll be leaving abortion laws alone since medical decisions should be made between a person and his doctor (unless women aren't full persons). Medicare is great, and he's going to protect it for seniors.

    Welcome to the Democratic Party, Mr. Romney. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

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  11. I actually appreciated the fact that Lehrer stayed out of the way and let them go at each other. When he actually did ask a specific question, they didn't answer it anyway. They were much more responsive to each other. The result was messy and uncontrolled and didn't stick to the schedule, but then that's me too, so I didn't mind.

    Clearly, Obama let Romney get away with a lot, and most viewers won't realize it. He should have pointed out specifically that Romney's published tax plan doesn't correspond with Romney's public comments about it. He should have agreed that the free market often does things more efficiently but not always and you have to examine the specific problem you're trying to solve to see if it's appropriate, not just be guided by maxims and cliches. He should have said you can't cut taxes (or keep them where they are) and make all the investments in education, etc., that Romney is suddenly promising. (Now, if I were standing up there in front of TV cameras, would I have thought of these things? No, I'd be trying to remember Jim Lehrer's name. But then that's the reason I don't run for president.)

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    1. He did a number of those things. It's just getting lost in the spin.

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    2. My problem with Lehrer wasn't just being ineffectual at reining them in; it was the INSIPID question format: explain how you're different. Not: what is YOUR plan? But, really, the question BEGGED them to mischaracterize their opponent. And the only time he hammered home anything was "and this is how you're different?"

      Lehrer was obsessed with making them different. Let their differences do that.

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  12. The return of Herman Cain! Just say whatever!

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  13. Boring. Until the game ended, I kept switching back to the Giants losing to the eliminated-from-contention Dodgers.

    Romney had more pep. But 'policy substance' becomes just dull noise when there is no way to check whatever numbers get thrown around.

    I also wonder if Obama deliberately held back from challenging some of Romney's claims, either to avoid being an 'angry black man' or simply because you can't really prove or disprove anything in this format. Better, perhaps, to let this dust settle and then bear down on Romney's inconsistencies.

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    1. It's the Gish Gallop.

      Google it!

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  14. Re: 4, Jonathan Chait wrote on Twitter that he thinks Paul Ryan will wipe the floor with Biden. I just don't see it. Biden will have a huge advantage on foreign policy, and he's pretty decent on domestic stuff. I think he can hit Ryan pretty hard on Medicare and, let's not forget, Ryan played a large part in trying to privatize Social Security years ago.(I thought Obama let Romney off the hook on Social Security by saying neither candidate has big plans - it seemed to me to be worth pointing out Ryan's history on that topic.) Biden could also push on how Ryan's proposed budget would likely gouge the VA. These all seem to me to be pretty strong points in Biden's favor.

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  15. When Lehrer did his boo-hoo "I'm not doing a good job" thing, Obama should've said "Oh, you're likeable enough, Jim"

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