This is what I wrote from The Reaction Quasi-Live Blogging of the Debate. I have to post it here. Today was really hard on me, because I feared that the President wouldn’t do well. I was wrong.
I have 5 pages of notes. But who cares? It was pretty much the same thing over and over: Romney mislead; Obama pounded him. There were a few places where I thought Obama went off track. He didn’t answer the question about gas prices (probably for the best. I thought that Obama could have said that Romney was the same as Bush because they had exactly the same 5 point plan. On the assault weapon issue he was trying too hard not to offend. But these hardly matter given Romney’s performance.
Romney was noticeably breathing hard as early as the third question. He wasn’t prepared for how facile Obama would be with the facts and the medium. He started off well enough with two big lies during the first question. But then he got a gut shot when Obama said that Romney didn’t have a 5 point plan, he had a 1 point plan. That was a great line, because the one thing people remember about Romney—the one thing that really defines him—is that he is for tax cuts for the rich. So Obama was saying, “Forget everything else he says: his only ‘plan’ is to cut taxes for the rich.”
Romney later used the education question to lie with his tax math. When Obama rose from his chair to respond, I noticed a certain swagger. Obama knew he was winning.
There were other funny moments. Romney claims to be for fair pay for women because he made sure he had token women in his cabinet. He was almost comical on the question of why he was different from Bush. “I really am! Don’t look at the policies or the advisers. It’s like my tax plan: trust me!” On the immigration question he wanted everyone to know, “I love immigrants!” I was surprised he didn’t say it with an Irish accent.
What was most interesting here was that Romney was clearly delivering a weaker performance than he did in the first debate. I suspect that this is because he wasn’t challenged in that debate. But it was clear. I sensed fear. Also, like Obama in the first debate, Romney often got into the weeds about issues that just don’t matter to most people: Benghazi? Fast & Furious? Please!
Just when I thought the debate could not get any better, Romney says that he cares about 100% of the people in his last answer. I couldn’t believe it! Was he really offering Obama this softball? Could it be? And if so, was Obama going to hit it out of the park? Yes. Obama’s closing was masterful.
But what do I know? What impresses me is not what impresses most people. So I switched over the Fox News. Chris Wallace was doing a “fact check” on the number of oil leases. Obama never said he increased the number of leases. In fact, he said the opposite. And then one of the Blond presenters talked about how the viewing audience doesn’t like it when the candidates interrupt each other.
Translation: Obama won big time!
Update (16 October 2012 9:45)
Romney’s message against Obama was that the economy has been bad, something everybody already knows. Obama’s message against Romney is that his opponent is a wealthy, self-interested Republican fully invested in his party’s platform. That’s something that not everybody believed after the first debate.
Romney was as combative as in the first debate, but our newly-invigorated president made Romney’s combativeness look like that of a child in a tantrum rather than a principled adult with facts and detailed proposals to support his position.
Romney was also an automaton—moving robot-like across the stage, repeating the same scripted paragraphs in answers to different questions as if he had been programmed with a limited number of options.
Obama, by contrast, seemed steady and relaxed.
The debate left me relieved—the President’s performance will almost certainly stop Romney’s momentum, and may turn the tide—but also left me perplexed. Where was this Barack Obama in the last presidential debate? Was it the altitude in Denver, a failure of preparation, exhaustion, a temporary emotional glitch?
Mostly, though, I’m glad Barack is back.
Update (16 October 2012 9:45)
Matt Yglesias presents 5 bad policy ideas from the debate. Four of them are Mitt Romney’s and Yglesias is wrong about the other one. The four from Romney: North American energy independence (won’t happen in global energy market); E-Verify (note that Romney is against regulation—except here); Incentivize business hiring with personal income tax cuts (employers will just keep more profit; cutting sales taxes might help); and Sales taxes on Chinese goods (this is the wrong way to make exports more competitive).
The one that Yglesias is wrong about is “Manufacturing Jobs for Everyone!” Like most people of his economic class, Yglesias doesn’t appreciate the importance of manufacturing as the basis of a strong economy. See Ha-Joon Chang’s Excellent 23 Things.