This is a very difficult sentence to write because I wanted so badly for a somewhat different outcome… but I believe Barack Obama may have come out with a win in tonight’s Townhall debate. Yes, you read that right. I believe Barack Obama won this debate.
I make that personal (opinion based) observation not for the traditional algorithm of substance vs style, but for the fact that CNN/the media used the evening to give themselves political ammunition in shaping the narrative moving forward.
Let’s be clear. The media, for two weeks now, has acted as a chicken with its head cut clean off. Running in hysterical circles in attempts to provide reason for Obama’s sudden slide across the board. Biden held his ground in the VP debate, but his mannerisms ruined any gains he may have grabbed through carefully crafted spin. The VP debate wasn’t enough to help the media machine get back into its perch of malicious and disingenuous offense. They’ve been stuck in a constant and desperate need for positive narratives.
Tonight they got what they needed. Through planted questions, strategic time management by CNN’s hack moderator, and a complete ignorance of the biggest issues of our time, CNN and their allies in the media will be able to spin this slug fest in to a “bounce back” for Obama. The “got his game back” narrative will soak newspapers, TV sets and evening primetime news for days to come. At a time when there are just 500 hours between us and the opening of the polls.
None of this is a result of a sound Obama debate performance, because it was all but. No, this is all because of a choreographed biased debate created for the sole purpose of keeping Obama in a position of strength, even though he mostly operated from a position of weakness.
Will it work? Time will certainly tell. While we all beat on media (rightfully so) the truth is media is enormously influential and powerful. Punch lines and talking points are often times the only pieces of information average voters are able to consume. The last debate left media scrambling for cover, finding only a cloud of confusion to hide behind. This time they’ve got ammunition and they’re going to fire it with everything they’ve got.
In terms of substance, Romney definitely wins. Romney stumbled a few times and missed a lot of opportunities, but he at least has new ideas and an actual plan. We can criticize parts of his plans, but at least he comes to the tables with new ideas. Obama, on the other hand, is completely void of solutions.
Obama’s weakest point of the evening, in my view, was his total unwillingness to address the Libya debacle. Had their been a real unbiased debate moderator, that moment would have crushed Obama because he has no answer and he knows he lied about it. Unfortunately for America, Crowley not only let Obama move on, she showed him the escape hatch.
On style, I might be inclined to go with a tie. That said, I think Romney came off as a little awkward and stiff at times. I know/believe this is because he was sincerely processing every word said and I think Romney is trying to engage on his ideas. This often times leads him to stiffen up and it shows. Obama, on the other hand, had swagger and was able to carry himself as calm and cool… for at least the first 60% of the debate.
In the traditional sense, Romney might have won this debate. But in the grand scheme of how the debate will be used to the advantage of one candidate over another, Obama will take the belt.
The next debate is on foreign policy… and Romney should be able to put the nail in the coffin. Provided he doesn’t again get beaten by the media machine that will surely try and set him up again.