While Michelle Obama was complaining to the media that yesterday wasn’t much of a 20th anniversary for her and her husband, Mitt Romney was planning his anniversary gift to be presented on the national stage – a slam dunk performance in the first presidential debate against the basketball-loving president. Being the romantic that the president is, maybe the reason his mind wasn’t on the debate as it should have been last night is because he was thinking about the belated romantic dinner he likely has planned for his bride.
Ironically, for President Obama’s anniversary dinner, he ended up eating crow. Up until the second before the debate began, the media gave the impression that Obama could have shown up with lettuce stuck between his two front teeth for 90 minutes and still would have walk away as the victor of the debate due to his nearly-unprecedented personal popularity with the media, political pundits, and many Americans. Well, it didn’t happen. Beyond Romney’s bombshell of an anniversary gift, the crow didn’t go down easy for Obama either.
There is no doubt that an honest evaluation of the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former-Governor Mitt Romney was a huge victory of the GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney. Romney was confidently in control, articulate, and responsive to the questions and challenges put forth by the moderator’s questions and his debate challenger – President Obama.
While President Obama continually glanced down and often had a difficult time finding the words to express himself, Romney rarely looked down to write or to use notes which equated to an overwhelmingly impressive stage presence and cast himself as a self-assured and confident leader.
The pundits’ comments – even from the commentators with an extreme-“left” slant – and the initial polls released within hours of the debate’s finale – indicate that Romney did a better job of debating the president than even predicted, and President Obama did a totally unanticipated poor job.
The impressive Obama style accompanied with sharp articulation that Americans witnessed four years ago has dissipated. The “magic” is obviously gone.
Of the critical comments, even MSNBC’s liberal Ed Schultz of “The Ed Show” said he was “absolutely stunned” by the poor performance President Obama gave. Schultz began his rant against Obama’s performance when talking on live television with Rachel Maddow by saying: “I was disappointed in the president.”
Others included the extremely-liberal radio talk show host Alan Colmes, who nearly finds it impossible to say anything against President Obama, reluctantly admitted that if the next two presidential debates are like this one – Obama is in trouble.
And while the list of those – even on the “left” – who are bashing Obama’s weak performance during the debate goes on and on, the important opinion is that of the nation’s independent voters. A poll of the nation’s independent voters reveals that Romney overwhelmingly won the debate – and thereby has won them over, for the moment. A CNN poll of persons who watched the debate, as well as independent polls questioning independent voters specifically, reveals that 67% believe Mitt Romney won the debate.
There is no doubt that Mitt Romney came across impressively data-ready prepared – much more data-ready prepared than the president. Romney was “presidentially” polite. He was not demeaning, rude, or insulting as Americans have often seen challengers with incumbent presidents in presidential debates in the past. Of the best responses from Romney was when President Obama tried to criticize him for not having detailed plans. At times, Romney countered by counting off his plans: one, two, three… On other occasions, he said that he wouldn’t have all the details until he sits down and works with politicians from “both” parties in Congress. Romney stressed the obvious which is that Obama has been totally unable to get Congress to work with him at all because – as Romney says – with Obama it’s been basically “my way or the highway.”
Additionally, Romney stopped Obama short of arguing with his self-proclaimed ability to work with Democrats as well as his Republican Party lawmakers by stating on several occasions that he was able to get things done with 87% of the politicians being Democrat rather than Republican in Massachusetts.
Beyond the appropriate responses by Romney, Obama lost the debate by not responding appropriately during the few chances he was given a chance to make some argumentative gains in the debate. He missed several opportunities to make himself and his administration look better than Romney was portraying him – such as when the debate touched on the auto industry. Obama let that moment – as well as several others – slip by.
Worse than letting his potentially good moments pass him by, the president began numerous responses with a phrase about “four years ago.” Obviously, that was a terrible move by the president. The very last thing Obama should be doing right now is having debate-watchers think of “four years ago” because most Americans were undoubtedly were much better off four years ago than they are now. Romney will be reminding debate-watchers of that fact more than enough in the debates – without Obama helping him.
What’s bad for President Obama in the near future is that the next presidential debate is about foreign policy. With Obama’s current problems in the Middle East and beyond, the president will have an extremely difficult time defending his job performance in that category – just as he did in the first debate when trying to defend the nation’s current job situation and the Obama economy.
About Scott Paulson
Scott Paulson writes political commentary for Examiner.com and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.