Politics Straight, No Chaser
Politics Straight, No Chaser
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
The much-anticipated presidential debate commenced in Denver last week in surprisingly lackluster fashion. There were no new or substantial points made by either candidate and there were no “zingers” or game-changing confrontations. For some, the most dramatic part of the debate involved its moderator, PBS News Hour anchor Jim Lehrer, who quickly lost control of the event as the candidates surpassed their time limits and ignored his interjections.
Additionally, the small amount of substance that was presented in the debate included scores of complex numbers and statistics related to convoluted tax laws and obscure pieces of legislation such as Bowles-Simpson and Dodd-Frank. This was a dream for analysts, but average Americans were left feeling apathetic, unsatisfied and to put it frankly, flat-out bored. Despite the overall feeling of disappointment, a large majority of people felt that this was actually a significant win for Republican Presidential nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney.
According to a CNN snap poll taken directly after the debate, a hefty 67 percent of those surveyed felt that Romney won the debate while only 25 percent siding with President Barack Obama. A similar poll by CBS showed a smaller margin of victory but still had Romney in the lead with 46 percent believing he won the debate, 32 percent believing it was a tie, and 22 percent believing Obama won.
The victory is largely attributed to Romney’s poise and charisma that was apparent due to a split screen format that made Obama seem somewhat tired and detached in comparison. Romney constantly looked Obama in the eyes, both while speaking and while being spoken to. Obama, on the other hand, frequently looked down at his podium with an occasional upward glance or grin.
Some pundits saw this as a sign of weakness or lack of preparation but others were less concerned. Amy Cuddy, a body-language expert from the Harvard Business School, told CNN that Obama’s aloof look was more-so one of reserve that characterizes his professorial and non-confrontational nature. On the other hand, Cuddy saw Romney’s bold stature and unyielding stare indicative of a competition of dominance in which Obama rarely participates. Either way, appearance is important and Romney’s appearance seemed to have been favored over Obama’s.
Expectations also played a key role in this debate. President Obama, who is occasionally deemed “the Great Orator,” was expected to be dominant in this role, especially compared to Romney who has had a campaign marked with awkward and gaffe-filled social interactions. Romney spoke impressively, however, articulating criticisms of Obama regarding vulnerable topics such as the economy and the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Romney noted Obama’s broken promise to cut the federal deficit in half as well as his failure to cut health care premiums by $2,500—claims that were verified by PolitiFact.com, a non-biased fact-checking website.
Romney’s commanding performance energized supporters and left supporters of Obama wondering why opportunities to counter were not taken. Obama failed to mention contentious topics such as Romney’s controversial past with Bain Capital where he laid off workers and outsourced jobs to China and also the 47 percent video where Romney characterized nearly half of America as irresponsible, welfare-dependent “victims.” Obama was able to keep the pressure on Romney in regards to taxes though.
Obama argued that Romney’s plan to cut $5 trillion in taxes and increase spending in other areas of the federal budget while not adding to the deficit is mathematically impossible. Despite Romney’s objections, the New York Times and FactCheck.org, a non-partisan, nonprofit group, supported Obama’s argument. Furthermore, Obama claimed that Romney’s tax plan would give tax cuts to the wealthy while increasing the tax burden on the middle class by up to $2,000 a year. PolitiFact.com rated this claim “mostly true,” unable to be fully certain due to the plan’s lack of clarity.
Despite the lack of new or informative substance, this debate made a noticeable impact, at least for now. According to Gallup’s daily presidential poll, Romney has gained a point, narrowing Obama’s lead to four points- 49 percent to 45. Similarly, a Reuters poll saw Obama’s lead drop from seven points to five with Obama at 48 percent and Romney at 43 percent. It is unsure whether this debate will have a lasting impact but any such shifts of momentum are significant in such a close race. Most Americans have already made up their minds on whom they are voting for but there is still roughly four to nine percent of the electorate that is undecided. Garnering as much support from this remaining percentage could prove to be vital to either campaign.