I watched the first debate on that fateful early October evening and for what it’s worth, I really didn’t see a flailing president, or someone who necessarily lost. Now as far as debates go, response-rebuttal format, yes, point wise, Romney won, but I rather saw it simply as Obama taking a calculated backseat and then going from there.
The Obama campaign is a well-oiled machine and they don’t make mistakes. The 2008 campaign run by the Obama campaign, as far as I’m concerned, has been the best campaign run since the 1960 campaign with JFK running against Nixon. The reason I say that is because it was the last time you could find the decisive differences between the candidates and see a campaign virtually make no mistakes—and JFK murked Nixon in those debates! Not to mention, it was a deathly close race, one where JFK still lost the popular vote, but was able to clench the electoral college vote. Very much so, Obama could do the same thing and defeat Romney.
Yes, the campaigns of Nixon in ’72 and Reagan in both ’80 and certainly the landslide in ’84 spoke of well run campaigns, but poll numbers were so far skewed in their favor, it almost isn’t a fair fight. Even with Clinton running in ’92 and ’96, he had the specter of H. Ross Perot being a real third party candidate that came up the middle and did to George H. Bush what Ralph Nader did to Gore in 2000.
There are people far more qualified than I that know how all of this really works, so I always figure that if I can figure this out, then there’s certainly more that other people can do better than me.
Truthfully, it would have been nice to see Obama come out the gates swinging, but he knew what he was up against: an unknown. No one really knew what Romney was going to say and the Obama campaign knew it best. Romney has been a great big flip-flopper, even more than George W. Bush if you ask me. (And his flip-flopping proves my grand conspiracy theory that at his core he’s really a social liberal with just conservative economic policies.) The Obama campaign made the bet that once they figure just where Romney is going to land his punches, he was going to do exactly what he just did: be predictable. Once they could nail him down with what he said at a debate, they know it’s no going back if all you have to do is check the transcript and see what he said at the debates and he’s toast.
Obama pulled an Ali and did the rope-a-dope move in the first debate. Obama let Romney land all of these gut punches while still protecting his face, and let his comfortable enough lead in national polls be the ropes absorbing the blows rather than tire himself out early. It’s no different than what you’ve learned from watching the infinite “Fast and Furious” movie series, don’t blow your NoS too soon, which, as far as the debates go is what Romney did. There’s another rather sexual reference I could use for reacting prematurely, but you get the picture.
So now, rather than Obama being on the defensive, it lulled the Romney campaign into a victory lap after the first debates, and they sure did take one! So by the time Biden and Ryan had their debates, all the Obama campaign had to do was take the leash off of Biden and Paul Ryan was like fresh meat. I’m sure Biden had no more than 5 minutes debate prep backstage, if that, and it was more than clear he was in his element and he was extremely comfortable doing what he did versus Ryan who was so nervous, I swear he drank a gallon of water on stage that night. And Biden was so off the meter that by the time it was the town hall second debate, the Romney camp had absolutely no idea what Obama was going to do!
It was great theater.
Partially, I blame media for downplaying and up-playing these four acts of the presidential and vice presidential debates and this year calling on that elusive unicorn aptly named the undecided voter. Frankly, the American public is going on what the media and how the media is portraying these debates. Even by now, only 24 hours after the debates as I write this, the debates are old news as far as the news media cycle is concerned. Yes, while the candidates themselves have gone back to stumping for our votes, still what happened to all of the discussion about how decisive these debates will be for the election itself.
Let’s be honest, all of these undecided voters, when interviewed sound more like incessant twerps who fall out with themselves over which pairs of argyle socks to wear in the morning and their brains stroke out neurological snafus between paper or plastic at the supermarket. Even worse, they sound grossly and purposely underinformed on the core issues that clearly have separated the two candidates. It’s as if they lack the basic critical thinking skills to tell there is a difference between the two.
Still, at the end of the day, the Romney camp is probably saying to themselves, how’d we lose this round of the campaign? And as an unapologetic supporter of Obama, I think that’s a good place for them to be.