Confession:  I didn’t watch the debate on Wednesday night.  My schedule unfortunately precluded it.  What I did do was read the transcript the next day.  What I experienced was probably much different from those who watched the performance live, but I do have some thoughts:

  • Obama did not win.  If we have to pick a champion here, it was definitely Romney.
  • The reason I say this is because the debate allowed Mitt Romney  to play to his strengths: business and the world of finance.  We all know Obama is a competent person, but on  Wednesday we were able to see that his opponent is too.
  • If Mitt Romney can sell himself successfully as the “smart economic answer man,” he could yet win.
  • Along these lines, I in general found whole discussion of issues and  learned dialogue helpful. It may have been  boring, but it was better than name-calling.
  • There was definitely something funny going on with the moderator Jim Lehrer. He seemed to not have control of the debate, and/or was unwilling to just let it be the freeflowing conversation Obama and Romney apparently wanted to have.
  • Obama did himself no favors repeating again and again the “trillions” claim against Romney’s tax cuts vs. expenditures plan.  After Romney’s repeated denials Obama’s attacks seemed to border on prescripted and petulant talking points.
  • Romney’s weakness will  continue to be matters of specificity together with the issue of healthcare and questions about Medicare.  On these issues the President definitely pressed his case (though certainly not forcefully enough on the matter of Romney’s specifics.)

Having won  this one, Romney faces a big challenge in the next debate on domestic AND foreign policy (and the third debate that is slated to be wholly focused on foreign policy).  It will be a chance for Obama to build on his international experience as president and try to make Romney look like George W. Bush.  If Romney can withstand and thrive under these attacks, it may be  a new day for his campaign.  Yet even if he doesn’t win as he did on Wednesday, there are questions about how important it will be, for this election seems to be less focused on foreign issues than during any in the past ten years.  We will see.


5 comments on “Postmortems

  1. Viletta Knight says:

    I did watch the debate, live. It was very educational and I was impressed with both Mitt Romney’s knowledge as well as his relaxed presence. He seemed like a real person and less like a robot. I got the impression from President Obama that he felt he was ‘above’ even having to listen to what Mitt Romney had to say. Most of the time, he would not even look at Mitt Romney when he was speaking. And the body language was very telling as well.

    Although Jim Leher is getting criticism on not being a good moderator, I think it actually went well by him letting the two candidates speak directly to each other and finish their points.

    I am actually looking forward to the next debate, which is surprising since I originally was not going to watch any of them. It just happened that in Alaska, the debates were on between 5-6:30 p.m.

    It will be interesting to hear both candidates when they speak about foreign policy since neither has ever been in the military yet are vying for the position of commander-in-chief.

    In the Wednesday debate, I believe Romney was the clear winner. I’m glad I watched. It was very educational.

  2. Kathy says:

    I am glad that you respect Obama in your piece here, which isn’t always the case when conservatives talk about him. One of my big problems with Romney is actually about his economic promises: he is promising both tax cuts and deficit reductions. Mathematically, I just don’t see how that “adds up”. (Even if he is successful in cutting support for PBS)

    • Joshua R. Ziefle says:


      Thanks for your comments. If Romney does do as you say, this would seem to make little sense…much like the Bush era tax cuts and increased expenditures. Hopefully a person like Romney knows better than to follow that dangerous road. But, then, maybe not. 🙂

      Regarding the conservative “label,” I’d prefer to distance myself from outside bracketing one way or the other.


    • Joshua R. Ziefle says:

      There is, of course, the conservative idea that increased growth in business would bring in more taxes and balance things out that way…but clear and effective communication of the numbers involved would be very helpful.

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