I spent the debate “live blogging” over at The Reaction. You can go over there to see my reactions as they occurred in real time. My initial thinking was that Romney did better than I had expected—and I expected him to do fairly well. But I didn’t think that Romney necessarily “won” the debate, whatever that might mean. He did, however, dominate it. He talked a lot more.
What surprised me was just how hostile the liberal reaction was to the debate. I guess this makes sense, though. They want the president to be a fighter. I feel the same way. For example, I couldn’t believe some of the things that Romney was able to get away with. In particular, I hate his claim that he can’t give specifics about his policies because that’s not how you negotiate. Never has a bigger pile of bullshit excreted from a politician.
Regardless of how the debate went for the pundits, my overall reaction was that Romney was even worse than I had thought. For a while, I’ve been pushing this line that Romney’s tax plan is, Trust me. But now I see that this is his plan for everything. Education reform? Trust me. Financial reform? Trust me. Healthcare reform? Trust me! It reminds me of Nixon’s secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. You may remember that the war didn’t actually end until he was out of office.
The more substantive point regarding the debate was that Romney’s policy ideas changed radically. Now he’s not giving a tax break to the wealthy! Now he’s going to cover pre-existing conditions by—Wait for it!—magic! He’ll increase funding for education. And the military. And anything else that you might like. It reminded me of the Michael Dukakis line from 1988: Mitt Romney is the Joe Isuzu of politicians. Or if you’re too young to get the reference: Mitt Romney claims to be Santa Claus.
President Obama has always been an “eat your broccoli” kind of guy. So we shouldn’t be too surprised that he used the debate to talk to the American people like they were adults. (As my friend Andrea would say, “That’s a mistake!”) But in the end, I think there is much fodder for the Obama campaign. Romney will get a bump from this, but over time, I think it reinforces the Romney nobody likes: the guy who will say anything to get elected.
Update (3 October 2012 9:24 pm)
A couple of debate tweets for you. First, Karen Finney and I seem to agree on the best line of the night, “Part of being a leader is being able to say what you’re going to do.” That to me sums up the whole debate. Matt Yglesias tweeted a question I have long asked, “If voucherizing Medicare for current old people is so terrible, why does Romney want to do it for me?” And finally, Dean Baker made the best collection of tweets of the night. I particularly liked this one, “Romney knows about picking losers, 22 out of 77 companies in his tenure at Bain Capital according to my colleague Eileen Appelbaum.”
Update (3 October 2012 10:17 pm)
Paul Krugman has something to say. I will quote it in full since it is short:
Update (4 October 2012 9:11 am)
Josh Barro notes that Obama actually spoke 4 minutes longer than Romney. As Barro correctly points out, “It certainly didn’t feel like that watching the debate.” However, Michael B. Dougherty points out that Romney spoke 500 more words.