The Second Presidential Debate

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on October 17, 2012

I decided to live-tweet this one; you can find my tweets here. The president certainly did better in this debate than he did in the first disastrous one, but Romney pretty much held his own, and likely continues to be seen as an acceptable alternative to Barack Obama. I thought that the debate was a functional draw, since the president didn’t make Romney look unacceptable as a potential replacement, and since Romney held his own and kept it close–certainly closer than Barack Obama managed to keep it in the first debate. Ron Fournier agreesCNN has the president as having won the debate, but the margin of victory is within the margin of error, which is certainly worth noting.

Romney’s strongest points came when he recounted the failed policies and broken promises of the Obama administration, and their consequences. His weakest points came when he complained about the rules and the process of the debate. The president was determined to have more energy and to call Romney a liar at every opportunity, but failed to present any kind of vision whatsoever for how a second Obama term might be better than the first one.

The president also botched the question of why extra security was not provided to the consulate in Benghazi–despite the specific request for more security. Romney should have pounced on the point that the president never explained why extra security wasn’t added, and didn’t even address the question of why it wasn’t added. Instead, he veered off into other matters. Lots of chatter on the Internet about how Romney supposedly misrepresented the president on whether Barack Obama called the attack an act of terror, but Candy Crowley later was forced to admit that Romney was generally right on the facts. She might have added that it was completely disingenuous for the president to claim that his administration thought the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack from the outset; it took weeks before the administration finally admitted that the attack was premeditated (I don’t know how one claims that an attack is a terrorist operation while at the same time claiming that it wasn’t premeditated), and that it had nothing to do with a YouTube video. Crowley should have hit the president on those points, as the repeated insistence on the part of the administration that the attack wasn’t premeditated and was related to the video was entirely misleading.

I was surprised–as my tweets show–that the president did not bring up the “47%” line until the very end. Obamaphiles say that it was “devastating” when he did bring it up, but CNN showed that viewer dials plummeted when he finally trotted out the line. And even though Romney wasn’t allowed to respond at the end, he anticipated and blunted the attack when he answered before the president did.

Jay Cost makes a good point:

. . . These debates provide mostly an upside for Romney, and mostly a downside for Obama — insofar as Romney has an opportunity to look like a credible alternative to the president of the United States by standing on stage with him as an equal. This is why I am uninterested in who wins on points. Once again, Romney looked like a credible alternative to Obama, even if the latter may have landed more technical blows. Romney was especially effective at seeming empathetic, personally qualified, and focused on getting the economy going.

Obama v. 2.0 certainly beat Obama v. 1.0 going away. But Romney hung in effectively against Obama v. 2.0. I don’t think that the people who view Romney as a potential president were given any compelling reason to change their minds.

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