Did Republican Mitt Romney get a knockout punch?
Did President Barack Obama convince most of the American people why they should re-elect him to another four years?
No, on both accounts.
First, let me say that I’ve watched dozens of these debates over the years.
And I believe this was one of, if not the, best presidential debate I’ve seen.
Because both men had great control of the facts they wanted to promote. And they both actually (if only a few times) answered the questions put to them and fought back against what the other fella was saying.
Often, it has seemed, the presidential debates ended up in the candidates talking past each other, just listing and re-listing their campaign talking points.
But both Romney and Obama looked at each other and listened to what the other guy was saying.
Now, on some particulars not necessarily dealing with talking points or facts.
While Romney made his points well when he was talking, more than just a few times while Obama was speaking Romney had a pained half-smile on his face.
He looked like he had serious indigestion. He would spring to life when Obama stopped speaking, or jumped in a few times to interrupt the president to make a point.
But I’m guessing some editorial cartoonists and late-night comics are going to have some fun with Romney’s pained expression.
You can’t beat Obama for smiling. He lit up a few times in smiles that seemed genuine.
Obama appeared more relaxed than Romney, but then looking relaxed is never Romney’s strong point.
In TV camera shots from behind the two men, Obama was often seen standing on one foot, with his other toe-pointed in a casual stance.
Romney was always ramrod straight. But Romney did use his hands in natural gestures at times and came up with some good “you have to be kidding” looks on his face when Obama said something Romney didn’t agree with.
It seemed to me both men truly did enjoy the debate, and that is critical – no glancing at watches, no sighs, no glazed expressions.
While a very experienced and professional moderator, PBS’s Jim Lehrer, unfortunately, seemed to give Romney some advantages, although unintentionally.
If I understood correctly, Romney was allowed to start an answer on two so-called debate segments AND get in the last answer on two segments. Admittedly, that may not seem too important, but it wasn’t fair.
Toward the end of the debate Romney really skewered Obama on one response, bringing up all kinds of allegations – “you have your own airplane and housing, but you can’t have your own facts. . . budgets are where you put your heart, you put $90 billion into green jobs, but you could have hired two million teachers. . . you supported (alternative energy) firms that failed, who gave contributions to your campaign. . . you have government-run health care. . . “
And Lehrer didn’t allow Obama to respond at all to those statements.
Instead Lehrer went off to another question and gave Romney the first answer to that question.
Romney did attempt to coin a few new phrases – “The middle class squeeze” – lower wages and higher costs for gasoline, food, etc.
And that it’s time to lead America “on to a new path,” and not go down the same old path (Obama’s) that has failed us.
At one point, after Obama detailed how Obamacare would help the Cleveland Clinic and its innovative ideas, Romney countered that a number of private hospitals/insurance firms, like IHC in Utah, were doing a good job.
So a local firm was mentioned by Romney.
Next up is the vice presidential candidates debate. Lord knows what could happen there, with the off-the-cuff Vice President up against the policy-wonk numbers man.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the final two presidential debates, and hoping they will be as good as the first one.