Oct. 22, 2012
If the third presidential debate between President Obama and GOP nomineeaffects the polls as much as the first one did, Obama secured re-election Monday night in Boca Raton, Fla.
Obama’s decisive victory wasn’t so much about what he or Romney said as it was about what Romney left unsaid, and how he didn’t say it.
Romney wasn’t trying to win the debate -- he was trying not to lose. The phrase that kept coming to my mind as I recalled the two candidates’ demeanors in the first debate was “role reversal.”
At the first debate in Denver, the president looked sluggish and seemed to be grasping for words. Romney looked energized and focused. At Monday’s debate in Boca Raton, the president looked sharp, attentive and very much like a man at the top of his game, even if some of his answers left a lot to be desired. If it was the Rocky Mountain altitude that got to Obama in the first debate, maybe it was the proximity to sea level that dragged Romney down in Florida.
At least the topography did not affect Romney’s ongoing case of “Romnesia,” as the Republican morphed yet again, this time into a kind of saccharine “Mr. Agreeable.” Romney seemed to be playing the role of a “yes man” to the president, with an overall argument against Obama that basically amounted to “Me too, but more so.”
It was clear from Romney’s timid, tepid performance that he thinks he has this election won. He was simply trying to wait the clock out.
“Where have I seen this before?” I wondered, but I didn’t have to wonder for long. Romney’s countenance and presence in the third debate was similar to Obama’s in the first debate. Obama got burned by trying to just coast to victory in that opening debate rather than seizing it, but it was Obama, not Romney, who looked hungry to lead our nation over the next four years.
To that end, the president helped himself immensely in the final debate.
After the debate, the GOP noise machine latched on to some nebulous “presidential test” that Romney had supposedly passed. Maybe so, maybe not, but Romney failed his geography test, saying at one point that Syria was Iran’s “route to the sea.” Still, the Romney camp has an explanation for this non-fact.
Several post-debate polls showed that undecided voters and the general public at large thought Obama won the debate. In fact, asof MSNBC pointed out, Obama won the third debate in at least one influential poll by a larger margin than Romney won the first one.
After the Oct. 3 debate in Denver, a widely cited CBS News-GFK poll found that 46 percent of the 523 undecided voters they surveyed thought Romney won, while only 22 percent thought Obama won. The CBS News instant poll after the third debate found that of more than 500 uncommitted voters, 53 percent said Obama won and 23 percent said Romney won.
Will the CBS poll following the third debate prove as influential in shaping public opinion as the Oct. 3 poll? We shall see, but Romney can’t feel good about retreating into a prevent defense with so much time on the clock and so much at stake in this election.
If you like writing about US politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election. Sign up here.
Follow PundittyProject on Twitter