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Tom Finneran: Why I’m Excited for Monday’s Debate

Friday, October 19, 2012

 

Tom Finneran, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

Well. Those first two debates were certainly entertaining. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Monday night.

By the way, who said that such debates were irrelevant relics of a bygone age?  By my count it’s Romney 1, Obama 1, and the next debate decides the race. Who could ask for anything more?

Mitt Romney is alive and well in this race because of his performance in the first debate, and President Obama now has a much better chance at winning a second term because of his performance in the second debate.

The debates allow us to see the principals unfiltered and under pressure, away from all the attack ads and campaign nonsense. That is incredibly important. The nation is not buying a car in two weeks, we are electing a President. So, let’s judge the candidates as we see them for ourselves, rather than through the lens of preposterous ads, almost all of which are an insult to our intelligence.

Who gained what?

To the nation at large, I believe that Romney has derived the greater advantage from the debates. That’s because the President is a known quantity with a four year record which people can judge for themselves. Therefore, Obama in a debate is the same old same old. He is tried and true and he remains lovable to his fans.

Romney, on the other hand, was very close to being caricatured to death by attack ads which portrayed him in starkly malevolent terms. Then, in the first debate, he stood and spoke while a listless President pouted through an abominable performance. Not only was the President fumbling the ball, but Romney was performing like a star. Suddenly the game is not over……Rather, the game is now ON.

The gain for Romney from the first debate is very specific in political terms and it is this: He now warrants a closer look from the voters who had taken their initial cue from attack ads, but who were seeing and hearing with their own eyes and ears someone very different from what they had been told. That’s a twofer for Romney in that he unexpectedly looks and sounds quite credible, while the authors of the attack ads are seen as untrustworthy political mischief makers.

The gain for Obama from the second debate is more generic than specific and it is this: He stopped a slide in the polls that was becoming increasingly dangerous to his re-election. He certainly reassured his base of political supporters and he probably convinced certain voters to wait for a few more days before deciding. I think it was pretty clear that Obama won the second debate, in part because he did not miss a single opportunity to pepper Governor Romney with specific criticisms. He performed well under a lot of pressure.

A few frustrations which we must manage in these affairs:

First, every candidate demonstrates an ability and inclination to use the descriptive riches of the English language to parse and straddle and equivocate. Euphemisms reside here!

Second, every candidate demonstrates an ability and inclination to avoid answering a direct and specific question, preferring instead to present an “answer” with which they feel entirely comfortable, whether it is on point or not. You can be sure that such an answer has been the subject of focus groups and intense polling, and that it comes from a political laboratory rather than from the heart or from the gut.

Third, moderators!  Oy vey. I know that it is a difficult and thankless job. I know that the moderators stand in between two alpha humans who are within inches of a prize which they have pursued for many years and that those moderators are at risk of being virtually trampled in the tense and desperate circumstances of the stage. I know all that and yet, I expect more. In fact, I expect a lot more.

Speaking as a Democrat, yet striving to be scrupulously fair, I thought that the President took liberties with and advantage of the moderator. And, apparently, post-debate analysis finds that the President got 9% more speaking time than Mr. Romney. That translates to a three plus minute advantage in schmoozing, selling, deflecting, explaining, and convincing voters that you are the right choice. It’s an utterly priceless advantage which a forceful and skilled moderator would never allow.

Throwing those frustrations aside, I can’t wait for Monday to get here.

 

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