Well, tonight’s debate was everything I thought it would be, and then some.
Unlike most pundits, I stated in my pregame article that I expected the candidates to be aggressive, even in the town hall format, and boy, were they ever. Both candidates went after each other, even face to face a few times, in a debate that was as contentious as it could have been without ending in a full-blown fistfight. Pres. Obama certainly took the criticisms of his last debate performance to heart, as expected, and came out swinging all night long. As expected, we saw the same passionate Mitt Romney from two weeks ago. Each landed harsh critiques of the other, and perhaps the fact-checkers will be as integral to the outcome as the opinions of the people who watched it. Romney seemed to be much more in charge of the facts again, while Pres. Obama seemed to make the more stinging personal criticisms.
Romney’s message for the night was clear: the president has failed, here are the numbers to prove it, and here’s what I’ll do instead. Equally as clear was the president’s message: Mitt Romney isn’t a credible candidate for president, here are the reasons and instances to prove it, and you should stick with me.
Romney clearly beat the president on economic issues, where President Obama hardly spoke about his own economic plan, but instead focused on trying to discredit Romney’s. He spent little time attempting to defend his guidance on the economy, and when the confrontation heated up over energy, the president literally asked the moderator to move on, this coming after Pres. Obama completely dodged an audience members’ question on gas prices. He continued the same line of attacks, albeit more actively this time, on Romney’s tax cut plan, though other than the “taxing the millionaires and billionaires” line, gave no real mention of his own plan going forward. The president needed to pull down Romney’s plan, but he also needed to give something,*something* that at least resembled a credible plan of his own. He didn’t.
My Take: On the economic front, President Obama failed, and Romney pretty much nailed it.
Gov. Romney had some big misses on the subject of Libya, though Candy Crowley certainly aided Pres. Obama on that front. When the president responded to Romney that he called the Libyan Embassy attack a terrorist attack the very next day, which was a complete lie, Romney attempted to counter by saying it actually took him two more weeks to call it a terrorist attack, but this counter was weak, and then completely lost when Crowley so unbelievably interjected herself to defend the president. Crowley falsely used the transcript of the president’s speech to defend him. Romney should have instead called out the president not for when he called it an act of terror, but that if he did actually call it an act of terror, then why on earth did the white house send Susan Rice out on five Sunday shows to call at a spontaneous act?
My Take: Pres. Obama won on the Libya situation…tonight. That will likely change tomorrow, however, when the fact checkers go after this one.
On style, both candidates lost. Both were aggressive, interrupting and talking over one another and the moderator. Romney seemed defensive at times, and directly questioning the president as he did a few times only really worked on the subject of overseas investments. Pres. Obama frequently spoke almost angrily to questioners, often pointing his finger at them, and seemed to be lecturing, talking at them rather than to them. The town hall format does not lend itself as well to an aggressive debate, which is why most pundits weren’t expecting it. Watching tonight’s debate, even though I disagreed with the talking heads and fully expected both men to be on the attack, it was easy to see why the pundits should have been right.
My Take: On style, going after each other might have made the debate more exciting for some, but it just looked bad overall.
My Verdict: I think both candidates did what they needed to do. President Obama definitely showed up for this debate, and Gov. Romney gave another strong performance. I call it a tie, for tonight at least. That is actually a win for Romney, because a tie doesn’t stop his momentum in the polls. President Obama doesn’t necessarily lose, because his performance definitely re-energized his base, but the questions about Libya will no doubt persist after this debate. That will not do the president any favors in the final weeks of this campaign, and he’ll have to answer for this again in the final debate. The only real loser tonight may well be Katie Crowley, who will take a beating from conservatives and others in the media for her indefensible acts in this debate. I almost pity her…almost.