Quantcast

«

»

Oct 11 2012

Just How Damaging Was Obama’s Debate Performance?

A week and a half ago, it looked like nearly a certainty that President Obama was going to win reelection in November. The polls in all the swing states and the national polls were showing him with leads that made it hard to imagine how Mitt Romney could build a winning electoral map. But after last week’s lethargic debate performance, the polls are clearly moving in Romney’s favor. But how bad is it, exactly? Andrew Sullivan is practically despondent over a new Pew poll that showed a massive swing toward the challenger, and he wonders aloud if Obama gave away the election last Wednesday.

The Pew poll is devastating, just devastating. Before the debate, Obama had a 51 – 43 lead; now, Romney has a 49 – 45 lead. That’s a simply unprecedented reversal for a candidate in October. Before Obama had leads on every policy issue and personal characteristic; now Romney leads in almost all of them. Obama’s performance gave Romney a 12 point swing! I repeat: a 12 point swing

Seriously: has that kind of swing ever happened this late in a campaign? Has any candidate lost 18 points among women voters in one night ever? And we are told that when Obama left the stage that night, he was feeling good. That’s terrifying. On every single issue, Obama has instantly plummeted into near-oblivion. He still has some personal advantages over Romney – even though they are all much diminished. Obama still has an edge on Medicare, scores much higher on relating to ordinary people, is ahead on foreign policy, and on being moderate, consistent and honest (only 14 percent of swing voters believe Romney is honest). But on the core issues of the economy and the deficit, Romney is now kicking the president’s ass…

Look: I’m trying to rally some morale, but I’ve never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week – throw away almost every single advantage he had with voters and manage to enable his opponent to seem as if he cares about the middle class as much as Obama does. How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement? And after Romney’s convincing Etch-A-Sketch, convincing because Obama was incapable of exposing it, Romney is now the centrist candidate, even as he is running to head up the most radical party in the modern era.

Nate Silver, on the other hand, probably thinks Sully should step back off the ledge:

Polling data is often very noisy, and not all polls use equally rigorous methodology. But the polls, as a whole, remain consistent with the idea that they may end up settling where they were before the conventions, with Mr. Obama ahead by about two points. Such an outcome would be in line with what history and the fundamentals of the economy would lead you to expect…

In Denver, however, Mr. Romney presented himself as an acceptable and competent alternative. Challengers also generally profit from the first debate: in 8 of the 10 election cycles since 1976, the polls moved against the incumbent, and a net gain of two or three percentage points for the challenger is a reasonably typical figure.

At the same time, incumbent presidents just aren’t that easy to defeat. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are now hovering around 50 percent and don’t seem to have been negatively affected by his performance in Denver. Although Mr. Obama’s approval ratings may be slightly lower among those most likely to vote — meaning that Mr. Romney could win with a strong turnout — historically that number has been just good enough to re-elect an incumbent. (Mr. Bush’s approval ratings were in the same range late in 2004.)

In some ways, then, the election might not be quite so unpredictable as it appears. There was reason to believe that Mr. Obama’s numbers would fade some after his convention — and the first debate has quite often been a time when the challenger drew the race closer.

I don’t know which one of them is right, but I would tend to give Silver more credibility. Sullivan, as insightful as he often is, is also prone to emotional swings that overcome his objectivity and this looks a lot like one of those. But I do think that this is a very different race than it was two weeks ago, and it’s clear that Obama needs a strong performance in the last two debates (and Biden does too) to restore some polling stability.

42 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    abb3w

    Quip heard on MSNBC last night: when you give bad polling news to conservatives, they want to kill you, and when you give bad polling news to liberals, they want to kill themselves.

  2. 2
    unbound

    I think the truth of the matter is in-between the 2 writers’ stances.

    Obama clearly damaged his re-election prospects by his poor performance (this is America…style is far more important than substance, and lying doesn’t even get called out anymore in the mainstream media). However, he probably made it close to an even race right now in lieu of simply being behind.

  3. 3
    Doc Bill

    Nate Silver actually does polling and has a good track record of being accurate in his predictions, as I recall.

    Sullivan, just a blogger with an opinion. But, then again, so am I.

    However, the question begged in my mind is this: Have we become so shallow a nation that a good performance on Dancing with the Stars determines the presidency?

    I watched the debates and what I saw was Obama swallowing hard and demonstrating great restraint. Just by his teeth-clenching and small shakes of his head you could tell that he well understood Romney’s lies but chose not to rise to the bait.

    What I found astounding was after the debate. Silence from the GOP. Romney flip-flopped all over the place ending up more center than right and there was no howl and cry from the pundits the next day.

    Going back to my original point, are we so shallow a nation that we can listen to Romney describe himself as a right wing fanatic for months, offer only platitudes with no substance for months, then in the course of 90 minutes on TV wipe that all out? I seriously hope not.

  4. 4
    slc1

    Far more damaging to the President then his debate performance was the reaction by the lamestream media to his performance. The morons who write for the lamestream media have never heard of the Gish Gallop or it’s inventor, Duane Gish but that was exactly the strategy employed by Romney at the debate. The president was totally unprepared for the torrent of lies and distortions uttered by Romney and the lamestream media was too busy criticizing his performance to be bothered with exposing Romney lies. If Romney ends up winning the election, he should award a prize to Duane Gish, the real author of his victory.

  5. 5
    Jasper of Maine

    The Biden debate should be… interesting.

  6. 6
    steve84

    Hinging an election is one debate is beyond absurd. But then so is much of American politics. People are right to be a bit worried, but throwing the towel and saying that Romney will win is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will just make more people vote for Romney.

  7. 7
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    I find it hard to believe that a single debate (first of three or so I gather?) is really going to have that big an influence on the final election result.

    I still think Obama will romp home by hopefully a pretty big margin.

  8. 8
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    The bigger the Obama landslide the better natch.

    Mitt the Shit seems, well, just *such* an awful human being – and political candidate – I find it hard to see how anyone could vote for him.

  9. 9
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    What I found astounding was after the debate. Silence from the GOP. Romney flip-flopped all over the place ending up more center than right and there was no howl and cry from the pundits the next day.

    That’s because they all knew, all along, that this sort of ridiculous flip-flopping and rampant dishonesty was both necessary and inevitable. They have accepted that an extreme amount of dishonesty is what is required to win a presidential election as a Republican. They all ‘know’ that Romney doesn’t mean that stuff. They all have faith that their candidate really secretly supports the things that they support, and that’s enough.

  10. 10
    Jordan Genso

    I’ve been comparing Mitt Romney’s situation to be similar to an adulterer that has to convince both his wife and mistress that they are the one he really loves (and not the other).

    It seems the marriage proposal to his mistress on national TV was enough to get her to believe him, and the wife may be tolerating it at the moment because she still thinks he’ll come home to her after the election. They both can’t be right, and there is absolutely no reason to trust Romney on anything, but as Bill Clinton said as a summary of Romney’s debate performance:

    “Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?”

  11. 11
    Modusoperandi

    Sure, on the one hand Romney didn’t say a damn thing that was true…but on the other hand Obama was sleepy and didn’t look him in the eye while he was being lied at. So Obama is twice as bad. Take that, America!

  12. 12
    dingojack

    Well – according to Intrade not so much

    Obama vs Romney: 63.836% vs 36.164% (Romney up by 0.805% over 9 Oct) [Obama lead by 27.672%]

    Demo. vs Repub.: 63.310% vs 36.491% (Obama up by 0.6979% over 9 Oct) [Obama lead by 26.82%]

    Seems like the debate bounce has kinda squished.

    Dingo

  13. 13
    laurentweppe

    (this is America…style is far more important than substance, and lying doesn’t even get called out anymore in the mainstream media)

    I’m still thinking that the problem is not much that lying “doesn’t even get called out”, which implies that a great many people are actually ignorant/cognitivally-impaired enough to actually believe Romney, but that many people see the upper-class as an impregnable fortress of privileges and are very willing to capitulate and end their lives as bullies’ lackeys but need an excuse to pretend to be fooled.

  14. 14
    Modusoperandi

    dingojack “Seems like the debate bounce has kinda squished.”
    Why, did Romney talk afterwards?

  15. 15
    Ray Ingles

    Things did shift markedly in the wake of the debate… but.

    1. The overall situation still favors Obama. Romney needs to win several states that are currently leaning Democratic: http://electoral-vote.com/evp2012/Pres/EVP_average.html Romney pretty much cannot afford to lose either Florida or Ohio. He misses either one, it’s almost impossible for him to get the electoral votes he needs.

    2. The fact that there was such a swing just shows that a lot can change in a short time when it comes to elections like this. Things could just as easily go the other way in the next weeks.

  16. 16
    laurentweppe

    I’ve been comparing Mitt Romney’s situation to be similar to an adulterer that has to convince both his wife and mistress that they are the one he really loves
    [...]
    but as Bill Clinton said as a summary of Romney’s debate performance

    Trust the expert :D

  17. 17
    busterggi

    How anyone even vaguely aware of politics could be swayed by this ‘debate’ is beyond me. Obama was definitely off that night but Romney has been off since 2007 at least.

  18. 18
    sebastianmarch

    The Demos hand-wringing may reflect their concern that Obama doesn’t have the debating skills to dominate the second and third debates. The next one is a town hall format, which should favor Obama. However, if a voter asks him an awkward question and he stumbles, things could go from bad to worse.

    The next two debates include foreign policy. If I were Obama, I would strongly make the case (and circle it in highlighter with arrows pointing at the circle) that Romney’s stated policies will get us into another war. I don’t thing swing voters want that.

  19. 19
    DaveL

    If I were Obama, I would strongly make the case (and circle it in highlighter with arrows pointing at the circle) that Romney’s stated policies will get us into another war.

    Does Romney have any “stated policies” that he hasn’t explicitly repudiated at some point or another?

  20. 20
    Michael Heath

    I think the big lesson learned here is a disheartening one. It’s an indictment on both the American people and the media.

    I generally hate the ‘common wisdom’ of pundits, but here they are right though Romney’s duplicity goes way beyond what I’ve observed any pundit predict as I point out below.

    The pundits have long noted Romney had cynically switched positions to make himself more attractive to the Republican primary voting base, where he’d switch back to moderate-Mitt after the nomination was secured. The debate last week was that tact and more importantly, it appears to have worked on the squishy middle.

    However, there’s another very bold related tactic I’ve begun to suspect Mr. Romney is successfully using. I have not seen any predictions this tactic would be utilized and is further evidence Mr. Romney has no moral center whatsoever, even worse than anyone described. When he’s on mainstream media outlets like last week’s debate or one of the broadcast network news shows, he’s a moderate. His comments should enrage his conservative Christian base. Immediately after those broadcasts, one of his aides go on conservative-friendly media outlets like Fox News and walks back the comments. So Mr. Romney hasn’t completely flipped as the pundits rightly predicted he would, he’s actually making two parallel cases for himself, a moderate one on mainstream outlets and a conservative one on Fox and other venues where conservatives hang out.

    In case you don’t remember Romney did not make himself easily available to the mainstream media prior to the national convention; that circumstantially argues this flip only on the mainstream media while continuing to pander to conservative Christians through their media outlets was planned well in advance, well before he secured the nomination.

    The fact we could see through Mr. Romney’s cynicism and dishonesty seven years ago, and he’s still able to pull the wool over the eyes of the people swinging the national poll results from Obama to Romney does not speak well of the part of the electorate which is a key to winning a election. And as slc1 alluded to, the fact the media ran a story that Mr. Romney won the debate from a normative standpoint when in fact his performance was instead distinguished by an enormous volume lies (I counted 60+ to Obama’s 5 or 6) and a massive flip away from how he’d been running for seven+ years now shows once again how incompetent the media is at informing its audience. In this case Mr. Lehrer’s complete failure as a debate moderator to demand honest answers and the blather by all the media afterwards.

  21. 21
    wscott

    Sullivan, as insightful as he often is, is also prone to emotional swings that overcome his objectivity

    That’s an understatement. What’s weird is that Sullivan obviously has tremendous respect for Silver and normally defers to him on polling questions. But Sully’s so spun up right now he can’t take his own advice.

    @ Michael Heath: Depressing, but I fear you’re right.

  22. 22
    tbp1

    I honestly don’t understand how this election can even be close.

    For all his faults, Obama has a governing philosophy predicated on the understanding that we are all in this together, and that government, while it can’t do everything, is actually necessary. On the other hand, Romney’s entire governing (and life) philosophy is obviously “Screw you Jack, I got mine.”

  23. 23
    slc1

    Re tbp1 @ #22

    What’s even more astounding is that most of the switch in voter sentiment is coming from women who previously strongly favored Obama. According to reports this morning, Obama lost almost all his edge among women voters.

  24. 24
    typecaster

    For all his faults, Obama has a governing philosophy predicated on the understanding that we are all in this together, and that government, while it can’t do everything, is actually necessary. -tbp1

    No, to the conservatives, having that philosophy IS one of his faults. They’re in it for themselves, and really believe that government isn’t necessary at all – in fact, it’s an impediment. So, while they understand exactly the same thing about Obama that you point out here, it’s an indictment of the man rather than a recommendation.

    On the Right, words just don’t mean the same things that they do in the slightly more reality-oriented society. That’s probably the single most frustrating thing about discussing things with them.

  25. 25
    Michael Heath

    wscott writes:

    What’s weird is that Sullivan obviously has tremendous respect for Silver and normally defers to him on polling questions. But Sully’s so spun up right now he can’t take his own advice.

    I’m a big fan of Andrew Sullivan, where I increasingly parse the U.S. into two groups, those who regularly read his blog and those who don’t. [Hint, no competent journalist or pol can do without the Daily Dish.] Normally I also cringe when he gets his panties in a knot; but not here for three reasons.

    We should all be outraged when it’s possible to effectively win a debate for elected office at any level by depending almost solely on false premises. The other day though after the debate Mr. Sullivan noted such dishonesty reinforces the lesson Republicans utilize, that to lie is to win; that demonstrating competence in governing is not a factor.

    Sullivan’s outrage that the media fails to properly communicate and inform as to what actually happened at that debate. We too should share that outrage.

    Sullivan’s pointing out right at the beginning of the debate as he live-blogged it* that he’s a knowledgeable debater where Obama was getting his ass kicked. That audiences favor body language and style over substance where his detractors pooh-poohed his description of what was taking place during the live-blog. Where the polls then validated Sullivan was in deed correct. Again there should be outrage when tens of several million Americans can be swayed out of one camp and into the camp of another because the winner both lied and demonstrated a complete lack of principles, even on the very planks they’d been promoting now for four-plus years.

    While I tend to support dispassionate argumentation, there are exceptions where outrage is earned:
    1) Our avoidance of the threat of climate change – Future generations will certainly be outraged at this generation.
    2) That conservatives lie to the point they predominately depend on false premises when it comes to their arguments which effects society.
    3) That conservative Christians both defend and promote bigotry, and abuse children.

    * I didn’t read his live-blog until after I watched the debate; which I scored with the number of lies and good points made by each. While I could tell President Obama was down that evening, I came up with an opposite conclusion because I was trying to judge their respective performances on the quality of their content, not their ability to win change the minds of low-information voters with whatever tactic would work.

  26. 26
    Worldtraveller

    Doc Bill @ 3:

    Silence from the GOP.

    Then you weren’t paying attention. They’ve been screaming from the rooftops that “Rmoney won!!11eleventyone!!”

    They’ve been so busy shouting that, that they didn’t notice the little, trivial, piddling details, like he lied his ass off, flip flopped like a fish out of water, and moved back to the center so fast it created a sonic boom. Trivial, I tells ya…..

    Have we become so shallow a nation that a good performance on Dancing with the Stars determines the presidency?

    Yes. Yes we have. This has been today’s episode of simple answers to simple questions. ;-)

    On a more serious note. I wish the candidates were allowed access to a video player and monitor. Then they could have their team queue up several dozen clips of the candidates saying things in the past, and they couldn’t just lie and say “I didn’t say that”, like Rmoney did. For what it’s worth, Obama could just hire The Daily Show staff.

  27. 27
    Doc Bill

    To elaborate my personal observation extending a point raised by M. Heath, I don’t think Romney stands for anything except President Mitt Romney.

    Leadership? Where? I don’t see leadership. Romney doesn’t represent the captain of the GOP, staking out platform positions, charting a course for the party. Romney’s foreign policy speech was pathetic. A 6th grader could have done better. Build more ships? Didn’t Romney say that the problem with embassies getting attacked was that “they didn’t fear and respect America’s power.” (I read that somewhere, or imagined it.) Really, Mitt, a mob is seriously thinking about our military power when they’re on a rampage?

    Romney has offered no ideas for dealing with the mid-East, and, well, I suppose that goes for every topic you could raise. What is Romney’s position on X, and nobody can articulate it. Not even a chicken in every pot.

    Just as Bush was, I suspect that a President Romney would be surrounded by people with definite agendas and he would just be a figurehead. Think back to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney. Bush wasn’t leading that rat pack.

    I’m speculating that in the privacy of the voting booth Americans will make the right choice for the country and vote Obama, even though they might tell their friends later they went for Mitt.

  28. 28
    Modusoperandi

    typecaster “No, to the conservatives, having that philosophy IS one of his faults. They’re in it for themselves, and really believe that government isn’t necessary at all – in fact, it’s an impediment.”
    Oh, please! They love government programs…when they’re using them. But that’s different, you see, because they earned those. Unlike those other people. And when the GOP, say, slashes Medicaid and block grants it out to the states, it’s only those other people who will get kicked off. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. A Just World. And if Real Americans get dropped, well that’s the Democrat party’s fault for jacking up the debt after spending so much on Sesame Street and foreign aid that there was nothing left over for important things like me.

  29. 29
    typecaster

    Oh, please! They love government programs…when they’re using them.

    *Chuckle*. A fair point. Perhaps I should have said that Obama says that government is necessary, while conservatives say that government is an impediment – until they run it. Message control is everything. And also the only thing.

  30. 30
    Michael Heath

    Doc Bill writes:

    I’m speculating that in the privacy of the voting booth Americans will make the right choice for the country and vote Obama, even though they might tell their friends later they went for Mitt.

    About 3 – 5% of the nation who typically vote Democrat but instead voted for Sen. McCain did so because Mr. Obama happens to be black. Andrew Sullivan’s been blogging on recent findings in that regard. This is similar to voters who claim they support voting referendums in support of gays who then vote against them; they prefer keeping their bigotry to themselves. So even if some voters did what you hope, they’re going to have to do so in sufficient numbers to overcome this election season’s pollees who claim they’re voting for Obama but will instead vote for the white guy instead.

    And these pollees are getting a ton of pressure from conservative memes flying around on viral emails which are inherently racist in nature.

  31. 31
    bmiller

    I don’t own a television so rarely “participate” in the modern American media circus (except for Teh Internets, of course), but I was doing boring cardio (treadmill) last night at my gym, and they had Fox news…O’reilly, to be precise.

    It is like another universe out there. Full of nefarious conspiracies. It is downright frenzied. I fear for the world (because when these poeple come to power, they will have that trillion dollar military to play with…until they break it)

  32. 32
    Nemo

    The Pew poll swing is simply not believable. Either the old or new poll is broken, or both.

  33. 33
    democommie

    “but that many people see the upper-class as an impregnable fortress of privileges and are very willing to capitulate and end their lives as bullies’ lackeys but need an excuse to pretend to be fooled.”

    How dare you!

    I will be calling upon one of Mittmoroni’s minions to make mincemeat of you, Sir!

  34. 34
    blindrobin

    I find it baffling how you, or anyone for that matter, can take Mr. Sullivan seriously as he has yet to realise that American political rivalry is not an analogue of the British Tory/Labour dynamic which seems to frame his reasoning and lend a certain through the looking glass absurdity to his opinions.

  35. 35
    laurentweppe

    Perhaps I should have said that Obama says that government is necessary, while conservatives say that government is an impediment – until they run it. Message control is everything

    Time for another of my french politics anecdote: during the 1998-2004 period, several french regions were governed by coalitions of conservative and far-right (as in “unrepentant fascists“, not merely supply-side peddlers) politicians. Some Conservative politicians had argued that letting fascists in regional executives was a shrewd move because it would force them to “take responsability” and stop campaining on the demagogic promise that everything would be so different if only they were in charges.
    The result? Well, I remember reading during the 2004 campain a surreal interview of a far-right elected official which went like this:

    Journalist: So, What can you tell us about the years spent co-administrating the region
    Far-Right Politician: I want to tell this to the voters of the region: everything you liked came from us the far-right, everything you didn’t like came from these spineless socialists-in-disguise from the center-right
    Journalist: So, for instance, which policy did you initiate?
    FRP: Well, as I said, everything you liked came from us the far-right, everything you didn’t like came from them
    Journalist: Yes, but, could you cite one measure in particular?
    FRP: It’s very simple: everything you liked came from us the far-right, everything you didn’t like came from them

    “Focus on the message” as they say.

  36. 36
    J Myers (no relation)

    (long post warning)

    Ed, that quote from Silver is 3 days old, and the bad news has continued to trickle in since. In Silver’s 538 model, there has been a further 18 electoral vote swing (9 from Obama going to Romney) and 16% swing in the probability of victory (Obama losing 8% and Romney of course gaining it). At this stage of the decline (no way to know if it’s bottomed out yet), Obama sits on an estimated 50.1% of the popular vote–the lowest projection on the 538 trend which dates back to May. Romney is at 48.8% (his highest) and possibly still climbing.

    This debate (and everything that has and will happened since) has been aimed not at the generally informed and rational readership of this blog, but at the portion of the population that, as of October 3rd, had not detected enough of a difference between these candidates to commit to one. I’ve seen many good arguments at this blog as to making the pragmatic choice between the two candidates we’re offered as we’ll probably never have the candidates we long for, but much of the commentary in this thread seems to be reflect a surprise that these candidates similarly need to win the vote not of the electorate we all wish existed, but of the one that actually does. Many of these people are very receptive to the sort of display Romney put on last week, and many are similarly put off by the apathetic defeatism exhibited, in their view, by Obama.

    Here’s a paragraph from a comment by “Mike” of Denver, CO on Nate Silver’s 538 post from today, which fairly well sums up the reaction many people had (a perspective I’ll carry through some of my subsequent commentary):

    Anyway- as supporter of the President, I won’t try to deny that Romney wiped the floor with Obama. If you weren’t paying attention to Romney’s positions beforehand, there would be no way to know that he was changing everything on the fly, because the President didn’t call him on it. Romney not only seemed more prepared and confident- but the most surprising thing for me was that for the first time ever, Romney seemed just as, if not more likable than the President. Not to everyone- some might have found him too aggressive and a bit of a bully…but clearly this was a turning point.

    So it just doesn’t matter that Romney lied, or if the media did not emphasize this “enough” after the debate; what many people saw were two candidates on the stage, and time after time, Romney would say something, and Obama had no compelling response. Or worse, on a couple of occasions, a tepid response was offered, and it was met with a much more convincing counter. With all the negative coverage of Romney leading up to the debate, many people thought he simply wasn’t a viable option, no matter what they thought of Obama. Not only did he completely dispel that image in 90 minutes (and I sensed this happening within the first 10-15), he fairly successfully foisted it onto Obama. It seemed like Romney dropped by Denver that night to give Obama a lesson about how to be a president. And in doing so, he won some undecideds that Obama, no matter how well he does for the last few weeks, has no hope of winning back. Some people inclined to follow Obama for authoritarian motivations might have been shaken free; his authority was delegitimized before their eyes. For others, he validated the Obama narrative and some of the other nonsense we constantly hear from the right (Obama isn’t capable, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, the media is biased against republicans). When the media filter was removed and the two candidates stood side by side, the truth was revealed.

    The situation was not helped at all by the off-balance response of the Obama campaign. Latching on to the Big Bird comment, as though emphasizing that bit of mild silliness could somehow reverse the profound recasting of roles that occurred in the minds of many observers, seems like the sort of thing we would have expected from the Romney campaign way back… well, 8 days ago. And then Big Bird sent them a cease and desist letter. (Is this really happening?)

    And now we have Biden / Ryan approaching, and though VP debates have not mattered historically, this one (like, well mostly because of, the first presidential debate) has dynamics that weren’t at play in past elections; a solid showing by Ryan, in conjunction with Romney’s surge, might be enough to cement the support of some who were turned off of Obama by last week’s performance and jolted into given the Republican ticket another look. We also have the ongoing debacle of the handling of the embassy attacks as the foreign policy debate approaches. And we have the supposed “October surprise” the Romney camp was bragging about before the debate. A week ago, I figured this would be as pathetic and desperate as all the other “surprises” they’ve tried to sell, but now, even if it isn’t something all that shocking, it just might be enough for them.

    And I have to wonder about the wider damage that may have been done here. How many people who were of the impression that the right was loopy are now considering that it might have a point after all? That all these paranoid rants in conservative media and chain emails might contain some truth? That perhaps the two sides really are the same. And if Obama loses, in addition to inferior policies we’re likely to see from Romney, we might get 2 or 3 Romney appointees on the Supreme Court—what damage will be done by them? What will happen to the already diminishing rights of individual citizens, to progressive causes in general, and to the brand of the Democratic party and it’s prospects in future elections? What sort of validation might this provide for the tactics of (truly unmatched) dishonesty and obstructionism we’ve witnessed? Obama would be remembered foremost as the guy who botched a debate so badly that the race shifted to an extent never before seen, as he threw away a clear lead to an amoral husk of a human who will likely set the country back decades. (And I’m sure that tale of failure will be well-preserved by any number of racists, who will recycle it at every opportunity.)

    And lastly, new to me in this thread: Michael Health @ #30, are you saying the polls are possibly overstating Obama’s support by 3-5% on account of covert racism? If that’s the case, I’d change my assessment of the situation from “bad” to “dire.”

    Needless to say, I hope I’m wrong about all this. I hope Romney’s post debate bounce fades, nothing much changes in his favor after that, and Obama wins next month, perhaps even by a comfortable margin. But at the moment, I’m not having much luck convincing myself that things will play out that way.

  37. 37
    Nick Gotts

    The Pew poll swing is simply not believable. Either the old or new poll is broken, or both. – Nemo

    The Pew poll showing a 4% lead for Romney contrasts with all the others currently used in the RealClearPolitics poll average, which is currently showing a 0.7% lead to Romney. Obama is still 63-37 ahead on Intrade. I haven’t watched Biden/Ryan, but reputedly Biden did considerably better than Obama, at the least, pinning Ryan to some of the more unpleasant positions he’s taken and things he’s done. Ashley Miller is very enthusiastic, some of her commenters less so.

  38. 38
    slc1

    Re J Myers @ #36

    I am going to have to take some exception to Mr. Myers’ analysis. IMHO, as I stated earlier, the greatest damage done to the Obama campaign was not his performance as such but the coverage of his performance by the lamestream media, which completely ignored Romney’s lies. This is all too typical of today’s lamestream media, appearance over substance and he said she said journalism.

    Mr. Myers appears to be unfamiliar with the Gish Gallop which I mentioned earlier. If he thinks that Obama fumbled, I can assure him that numerous evolutionary biologists have fumbled much worse in debates against Duane Gish, appearing even more unsure of themselves then Obama appeared.

    As an example of Gishes’ dishonesty, someone would point out an error in his argument, he would acknowledge that he had erred, and the next week would repeat the same statement that he had disavowed the previous week.

    It was not until Gish met up with the late John Maynard Smith that he met his match.

    What Obama has to do in the next two debates is take a page from the Smith playbook and go after Romney as Smith went after Gish.

  39. 39
    laurentweppe

    the greatest damage done to the Obama campaign was not his performance as such but the coverage of his performance by the lamestream media, which completely ignored Romney’s lies

    I don’t think it matters much: Romney’s core audience sees his lies as valid tools to get the White House back in the whitey hands it was meant to, and the tiny group of undecided who are so politically ignorant that they don’t know where they are on the political spectrum would likely tune out any detailed report of Romney lies.

    And Obama’s core problem remains: he cannot rhetorically crush Romney, not because he is incapable of doing so, but because in will not, cannot take the risk of being painted as the angry black man who (metaphorically) beat up a poor, innocent, defenseless, white man.

  40. 40
    J Myers (no relation)

    @slc1,

    I am admittedly a bit out of the loop regarding the media coverage as I’m presently living in Europe and it’s a bit more effort to keep up on the TV coverage, though I am as always reading quite a bit online. I will note that my impression of the debate and its likely aftermath formed as I watched the debate live (at 3am, on a choppy feed from HuffPo that did NOT have the split screen presentation that many people said made Obama look that much worse). Andrew Sullivan independently reached similar conclusion (I did read his live blog account after the debate, and to my dismay found him saying pretty much what I had thought myself), as did the Mike whose comment I quoted, and I’m sure any number of other people. So, while I’m sure the media coverage didn’t help matters any (and I’ve been observing the same media deficiencies you mention for, well, as long as I’ve been paying attention), it was at least possible for one to have been impacted by the debate itself, prior to watching any subsequent coverage. How many people were primarily affected by their own observations, and how many were primarily affected by the media, I have no idea. Some perhaps might have been convinced by the coverage of what they had already suspected, but if they thought Obama did not do well and the media confirmed this, I can’t fault the conclusion.

    I’m familiar with Gish Gallop, and I did indeed detect an element of it during the debate, though I didn’t think it was unmanageable (for a properly prepared and skilled debater); I think certain more egregious lies could and should have been dealt with much assertively by the president, and that would have been sufficient to at least prevent the catastrophe I witnessed.

    @laurentweppe,

    While I imagine such concerns are always occupying some part of the minds of those unfairly burdened by them (likely contributing to the reality of stereotype threat), do you think that seeming “uppity” is a significant concern in this case? I would suspect that people who would react that way to a black president rhetorically dominating his white challenger are already in the camp of the white challenger, and that the far greater risk would be failing to delivery the sort of inspirational performance upon which I suspect the ignorant sliver of remaining undecideds will base their choice. Maybe not; I don’t know. I do think it’s clear that the approach Obama took last time was not at all effective, so if he is in fact able rhetorically crush Romney, I think now is the time for him to do so.

  41. 41
    democommie

    J Myers:

    What they were doing was not, “debating”. Debating is a lot different form of public/private discourse. Romney was lying, which is what he does when he opens his mouth. Mr. Obama tells some whoppers from time to time, as well; it is not his default state.

    When someone tells lies and the public is credulous enough to simply accept them as fact well, wtf are ya gonna do? What I do is call the liar a liar, obviously Mr. Obama felt he could not do this. Too bad.

  42. 42
    J Myers (no relation)

    What they were doing was not, “debating”

    Well ok, it was nothing like a proper formal debate–I think I made that clear enough when I discussed the target audience and the manner in it would be evaluated–but it was a rather standard format for a presidential debate. Should I call it something else?

    Romney was lying, which is what he does when he opens his mouth.

    I doubt anyone on this thread would dispute this.

    What I do is call the liar a liar, obviously Mr. Obama felt he could not do this. Too bad.

    I don’t know what he felt. Perhaps he was caught off-guard by the shapeshifting (though considering the well-established duplicity of the right, I don’t have much sympathy if this was the case). Perhaps he felt as you described. My guess would be that he felt he had a large enough lead in the polls that he was better off taking a thoroughly non-confrontational approach, even if that meant losing (in the context that word takes here) badly. I suppose it’s also possible that he felt at the time like he did a fine job (Andrew Sullivan made reference in a recent post to Obama “feeling good after he left the stage,” but I’m not sure where he heard that assessment).

    My view is that Obama should have been aware of the target audience (the low information crowd likely to be swayed more by theatrics than substance, particularly the uninspired meandering sort seen in many of his replies), that failing to address gargantuan lies would legitimize them in the eyes of many viewers who would not be fact-checking themselves (or who would wonder why, if Romney’s statements were indeed lies, Obama was unwilling or unable to address them), and most importantly, that this would make Romney seem like a viable option to many people that did not at the time see him as such. Also, that looking as though he was doing everyone a favor just by being there, and that losing decisively in this manner would make Romney appear not just viable, but better-suited for the office than he was (along with firing up the base that is an essential part of Romney’s strategy), and that all of this would do some nontrivial damage to his bid for re-election.

    As for wtf we can do now… for most of us, not much more than sit here, watch the polls, and hope Obama can put together enough of a showing in the next two debates to win the election. I think it will take not only two wins, but a bit more bungling from Romney, as Obama now has to overcome Romney’s momentum, his newly energized base, the tendency of the last remaining undecideds to break decisively for the challenger, whatever voter suppression activities the rethugs can manage to pull off, and perhaps some element of covert racism not reflected in the polls.

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site