Presidential Debate 1 -- Reflections

Okay, the first Presidential Debate is over and we have a winner.  At least on style points. I'm not a political pundit, but I do have my opinions, so I'll share them momentarily.  Before giving my opinion, I'll note that I'm in the midst of my own political discussion as part of the Energion Political Roundtable.  This isn't an official contribution to that conversation, but the two are related.

So, last night Mitt Romney stood toe to toe with President Obama and seemingly won the night.  It was clear that the former Governor had been working long and hard for this night.  He had a ready answer, was able to dodge blows, and ultimately took over the debate from Jim Lehrer.  So, Romney helped his cause by appearing competent and even Presidential -- though I found his smirk while the President spoke annoying.  Nonetheless he'll get a little bump in the polls, but will it be enough to turn the tide?  I doubt it, though Republican coffers will get refilled.

As for the President, I think he was wanting to be out with Michele celebrating their 20th anniversary.  He seemed a bit disengaged.  He explained things well, but didn't push Romney as well could.  He seemed to stumble with his words at times and looked perturbed as well as Romney evaded his punches. I can understand why -- Romney continued his flip-flopping, but such was the night.  Now the campaign will spin the night, and make the best of it.  Obama, though, is an athlete and he knows he came in second.   But also knows that there are two more debates to get back his mojo.  My sense is he'll sit down with the game films and figure out how best to take on the challenger.  In the mean time, Democratic pundits will give him a hard time.  And so it goes!

Having dealt with style points, we can move on to substantive issues, such as they were.  Neither candidate told us anything new.  No one had a gaff, but no one revealed something new.  I actually thought the questions posed by Jim Lehrer were kind of lame.  He didn't push on specifics, especially when it came to asking follow ups.  I guess I'd been led to believe he would have the freedom to push on the specifics, but he never really did and then he kind of let the debaters do what they wanted.

Since this was the domestic issues forum, it would have been nice to hear about more than Medicare, Obamacare, and taxes.  Having watched the Sojourner's film The Line the night before, I had hoped to hear more about poverty in America.  Both candidates spoke of it in passing, but the moderator didn't press on this issue and so the poor remained largely invisible.  We didn't hear anything about immigration reform either.  So, what we experienced was two wonks trying to get the other caught up in the weeds, and we went often into the weeds. It was sort of like the way I play golf -- always in the rough (which is why I no longer play golf!)

I realize debates are important because they put candidates together in one room, but too often, and I think it'll be true in this case, we judge on the basis of style.  Who is the most prepared and confident?  Who gets their punches in or deflects them?  But, in the end they're not all that informative -- that is unless a gaff occurs that reveals the inner person.  Such wasn't the case last night.  

So, on to the next one, which is Joe vs. Paul. The wonk versus the common man.  That one should at least be more entertaining!


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