Post Debate Punditing Without A License

I’m going to do something I very rarely wish to inflict on y’all.  Usually, I like to invoke at least a schmear of empirical evidence to drive an argument, but just this once I’m going to go all pundity…

….which means, I guess, that I gotta start with a Penetrating Glimpse of the Obvious:

Last night’s debate was a poor showing for President Obama and those of us who see the prospect of a President Romney as a clear and present danger to the Republic and our kids’ future.

Which leads to the equally obvious (but true) pivot:

No campaign is a single event. Counting today there are 32 full days to go before the polls open on Tuesday, November 6.  Last night’s farrago will become part of the river of stories that flow towards that day — but it is the sum of those tales, not any single shiny moment, that will determine the outcome.

Already, some folks — partisans for now, to be sure — are trying to draw attention to what Romney actually said, and in doing so, identifying the significant vulnerabilities this debate exposed for the Republican cause.  For example, I agree with Mistermix that Romney’s signal mistake was to open himself up for a renewed assault on his Medicare position — and that link to Krugman shows it ain’t just us DFH’s paying attention.   I also think Romney’s tripling down on his tax plan will allow a lot of people, and not just wonks, to remind folks of the gap between arithmetic and all the BS Romney and Ryan have thrown out on this one.

As Josh Marshall says in that second link, this is the kind of thing that takes several news cycles to build.  But recall:  we were all enraged at the brazen embrace of easily refutable lies in the Ryan RNC Convention speech.  We didn’t have faith in either the MSM or the Obama campaign (Democrats after all!) to take on the deceit with anything like the attention needed to defuse such weaponized ruminant excrement.  But they did, and (with some help from the marathon man himself) Ryan has become at least a bit of punchline ever since.*

So:  President Obama missed many opportunities last night, perhaps most significantly in not drawing a sharp enough line between the “you’re on your own” Romney vision and the “we’re all in this together” music Obama has played to such great effect in the past (and I’m sure will again, soon).

But the real test of the Obama campaign will be what it does over the next week with the actual missteps Romney made last night.  How will they use his internal contradictions in the ads?  What will Obama and his surrogates say to local news folks?  How quickly can their operation drive the mainstream media to go to town on stories like this one? (Shorter: it took almost no time at all for a Romney aide to contradict Romney’s core claim about pre-existing conditions and Medicare.)  No guarantees exist, but I have to say I’ve been damn impressed with the side of the Obama campaign that pursues such ends.  (Note also that Fallows reminds us that (in his view) debating is the best campaign technique for Romney.  Obama’s operation has been superior to his rival’s in every other phase so far.)

To repeat the cliché — holy hell, if I’m pretending to be a pundit I’ve got to hammer those too — but campaigns are marathons, not sprints.  Romney’s performance last night was like ripping off an 15 second 100 yard dash in mile 18th on the way to the Back Bay.**  Yup, he won that stretch of road.  Now comes the time to reel him in.

Which leads me to my last thought, the one I hope y’all take home: 32 days, peeps. It’s not just Obama and the grandees of the profession, the Axelrod’s and the Plouffe’s who can’t let themselves get too much sleep between now and then.  There’s the rest of us.  There’s me.

I have to confess — I’ve been less involved in a boots-on-the-ground kind of way in this election than the last, and by a good margin too.  My wife and I have been giving money on a regular basis, but I used to be a phone bank hero, and then got into door-to-door as my preferred mode of participation.  Haven’t done that this year; pretty much all I’ve done that requires me to upgrade from a bathrobe in front of a screen in my basement*** is to show up at a couple of Warren events.  That’s not enough — if there is one true lesson to be gained from the debate it is that nothing is in the bag, not the Presidency, not the Senate, surely not the House.

I’m not Tim F.  I can’t match his gift for catalyzing action.  But action is needed, so here’s my pledge.  I’m going to do something every week from now through Monday, 5 November.  I’ve got the day job and I’ve got the kid and there’s some real life stuff happening in my extended family, so I can’t do what I did when I was a mere pup, and just take off for New Hampshire for the last two weeks of the 1992 election.  But I’ll be heading north to canvas this weekend and everyday I can liberate from my daily round between now and the 6th; I’ll be tossing more bucks in the pot today, and no doubt on days to come; I’ll keep looking for useful tasks that I can tackle.  I really don’t want to do this — I’m becoming more misanthropic and generally grumpy with each passing year — but that’s what’s required, so I’m just going to kick my ass out the door as much as I possibly can.


Update: Just to show it ain’t just my rose-colored monitor screens making this argument, here’s a dispatch from the inner sanctum of the Village, NBC’s First Read:

*** Who wins the post-debate? If Romney won the instant reactions from last night’s debate, it is more than possible that the Obama camp can win the next 24 hours. Why? Because Romney said several things that could make life difficult for him today or in the next debate. First, Romney declared, “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” But in addition to supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are skewed heavily to the wealthy, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says that Romney’s tax plan would give the Top 0.1% an average tax cut of more than $246,000. Next, he stated that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” While he has said his plan will be paid for, he’s yet to lay out any SPECIFICS on how he’ll pay for it. Romney also said, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” But the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has said he’d sign into law, leads to long-term spending reductions in education. And Romney also didn’t disagree with the description that his Medicare plan would consist of “vouchers” for future retirees. Winning a “debate” is always a two-part deal — the night itself, and then the aftermath. This is now an opportunity for Team Obama and a challenge for Team Romney.

Update 2: And on cue, here’s an opening shot from Team Obama (via):

<div align=”center”><iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

None of this is to say all is well.

It isn’t.

This election is a month away and it really, truly ain’t in the bag yet.  So what I said above:  If the idea of waking up on November 7 to the words President-Elect Romney gives you the cold sweats, listen to the man — and don’t just vote, put mind, money and muscle behind the campaign to get your friends and neighbors to follow your lead.


*Via DeLong, a new game:  Where’s Waldo Paulie?

**Boston stuff — never mind.

***Not intended to be a factual statement.

Image:  Franz Marc, The Yellow Cow, 1911.

Cross posted at Inverse Square

88 replies
  1. 1
    The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik says:

    It’s nice to remember it’s a marathon, but it’s kind of hard not to feel pained when Romney can lie his ass of fast and without regard for anyone long as he got the first and last word in every time, and the entire country seems to shift to ‘SEE!! SEE! OBASTARD REALLY IS A RETARDED EMPTY SUIT DUMBASS! ROMNEY FOREVER, ROMNEY FOREVER!!!!!”:

  2. 2
    Brian R. says:

    Counting today there are 32 full days to go before the polls open on Tuesday, November 6.

    Except for all the states with early voting and the absentee voting.

  3. 3
    kindness says:

    Do we need to call PETA on the squirrels that power BJ’s servers? I think so after last night.

    I’m better now. Last night I was riled after the debate. But today it’s in a better perspective. I think it’ll be OK. I think the public will still see Obama as Obama and what he represents and Romney as Romney and what he represents.

    I think it’ll be OK and I will never again liveblog at Sully’s.

  4. 4
    D.N. Nation says:

    Quick note to Charlie Pierce, Robert Reich, among others:

    We get it. Clinton is your surrogate daddy. You want Obama to morph into Clinton and do, uh, Clinton Stuff or something.

    You’ve been peddling this for years now. It still makes you look bad. Stop it.

  5. 5
    Schlemizel says:

    I think this goes right to the point I made before the debate about zingers. The actual words spoken mean a whole hell of a lot less than the spin and the general impression (which is all too often a product of the spin).

    Barry did not do well last night. Forget the fact that Willard lied his ass off & changed his ever changing positions yet again. Only one of those two statements is making news today. Can OfA fix that before the weekend chats? don’t know. But I do know he is going to have to do better at the next debates and that ‘better’ does not mean more accurate numbers or more consistent positions.

    It hardly the game changer the media desperately wants but it is a lot closer to one than it should have been.

  6. 6
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @D.N. Nation: Strange, because they’ve now got a guy to the left of Clinton, much further to the left on a non-trivial number of issues…. and it doesn’t seem to matter.

    Affect is all, not just on the right.

  7. 7
    aimai says:

    Tom, I couldn’t agree more. Someone we (probably) both know has a daughter up doing g-d’s work in NH. She is “responsible” for 800 houses in her patch of NH for the Obama people. Every weekend she meets recruits in a parking lot with apple cider donuts and a list of houses to walk so they can ask peole if they are willing to “share” their political choice and then act on it: register, door knock, vote. OFA is way more organized than Kerry or Dean (the last time I doornocked) and they have a plan that they are executing. They need help. So does Warren. I’ve been wrestling with the health issues of a neighbor (95, had a stroke, now moved to rehab) but I, too, need to get my skates on and do more than just send in money. I kind of hope this debate debacle, like the anti voting purges in PA, serves as a kick in the pants to Obama’s supporters to get to work.


  8. 8

    Last night was an excellent example of how MSM is our biggest obstacle.

    I remember the first Kerry/Bush debate very well. John Kerry essentially rhetorically bitch-slapped Bush on foreign policy for 90 minutes. Post-debate polling reflected that most thought Kerry had ‘won’ (with numbers eerily like those for Romney last night). Everyone else remember how quickly the mainstream pundits fell behind the “Kerry’s Comeback! So Strong! Bush is cooked!” narrative after that?

    Yeah. Me neither.

    But last night, most of them declared the election lost before the first debate was even over. Even the MSNBC crowd, with Ezra K. tweeting that “The Media Supports Winners”.

    If ‘confident pathological liar’ equates to ‘winner’ then, yeah, I suppose so.

  9. 9
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Brian R.: Yup. The point is, though, that’s the finish line.

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik: I know, but that’s what this post is trying to say. We’re Debatecalypse + 11.5 hours as I type this. This story is in its infancy still. Chill — and get to work.

  10. 10
    ChrisB says:

    Krugman, of course, IS a DFH.

    He may be right when he says that the debate shouldn’t be about theater criticism but about substance but that’s rarely the case with the voters who are up for grabs.

  11. 11
    General Stuck says:

    Impossible to google anything precise on debates right now, that isn’t very recent. But it was weeks ago, word leaked out that Obama was not going to be combative in the first debate as a matter of strategy.

    My prediction, there won’t be a big change in the polls, because the public is not going to pick up on the bullshit from pundits. They have seen Obama perform eleventy hundred times, and know his moods and style in public speaking.

  12. 12
    Dave says:

    Well said, Tom. If elections were decided in the first debate we’d all be remembering President Mondale.

    But slightly Off-topic, and it has been mentioned multiple times in other threads, the CNN “poll” they are touting is journalistic malfeasance. 100% of respondents were white Southerners over 55. How is that scientifically valid?

  13. 13
    Brian R. says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I agree with your general point, but just wanted to note that some folks are in fact already voting.

  14. 14
    Lee says:

    I honestly cannot remember how did Obama do in his first debate 4 years ago?

    It is has been 4 years and I’ve got kids so I can’t remember that far back.

  15. 15
    Culture of Truth says:

    I’ve read a dozen times that Romney “won” the debate. Not to be an Obot, but in this day and age that is just an inaccurate way of putting it. I’m serious – debates are not sporting events, where partisans can admit an objective defeat. Tweety aside, liberals thought Obama had the better argument, (even if they wish he had hammered Mitt more) and conservatives though Mitt “won.”

    I don’t deny Mitt was superficially better, especially at the beginning (I do think he faded at the end) but really these things are for laying out your plan and vision, and how receptive a viewer is depends on where they are politically to start with. Are conservatives at all concerned that Mitt bounced to left? Probably not, but you can be sure that 90 minutes of footage on the cutting room floor can be used and will be used against Mitt, in the court of public opinion.

    In essence, the debate may be just another advertisement footage content generating machine, and the results could prove interesting.

  16. 16
    The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik says:


    True, but apparently Democrats aren’t afforded the full bore support of the media if they win the first debate, whereas Romney seems to have gotten the full force of the media wondering ‘IS OBAMA REALLY A TOTAL HACK FAILURESAUCE DISASTER?!’ in nigh-goddamned unison.

  17. 17
    pkdz says:

    My conservative facebook friends here in Wisconsin are gloating and talking about how Obama needs a teleprompter. Me? I’ll knock on doors this Saturday and help get out the vote.

  18. 18
    Culture of Truth says:

    adding, I thought that cow was a jalapeno pepper

  19. 19
    The Moar You Know says:

    They have seen Obama perform eleventy hundred times, and know his moods and style in public speaking.

    @General Stuck: I have seen Obama “perform” eleventy hundred times, like most of us have. But not the version that showed up last night. I’m seriously wondering if he’s ill. He was not on his game and looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but there.

    Of course, if I had a job as shitty as the one he’s got, I’d have quit in the first month.

  20. 20
    General Stuck says:

    Well, at least one thing. If Obama was plagued by too high expectations for this debate by the teevee wizards, among others. The next debate, he has the chance to be the Next Lincoln as the underdog, that cleans the clock of Stephen Douglass RMoney.

  21. 21
    Dave says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik: I have to disagree somewhat. In 84, Reagan came across as confused and befuddled and Mondale hammered him. And the press reported it as such. And we all know how that ended.

    It’s not that Obama stumbled that is the key – it is how does he respond. He has to come back strong in the second and third debates. That is where narrative is built and momentum gained.

  22. 22
    D.N. Nation says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    I mean, jeez, Reich was IN THE F***ING CLINTON WHITE HOUSE. Please, Robert, enlighten us to all the great progressive stuff that got signed into law by the Clenis.

  23. 23
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    I think Obama could have done better for sure. The obvious opening was to paint Romney as a flip flopper (he did chide him for being non specific, but he could have really lit into him about how he tells every audience what it wants to hear and he’s doing it again tonight so how do we know where he wants to take the country?). I think getting Romney to admit to the vouchering of Medicare will sting in the long run – that was Romney’s worst moment by far.

    My big complaint isn’t that he didn’t attack Romney enough, though. It’s that he didn’t explain his own vision, record and policies very well, and he didn’t knock down Romney’s straw man about the government controlling everything. He also could have stepped in when it was obvious Romney was getting the last word every time and Lehrer wasn’t doing shit about it. I don’t think this will change much though: Dukakis won the debates and lost, Kerry won the debates and lost, Gore won the debates and lost. Winning the debates does not corrrelate very strongly with winning the presidential race.

  24. 24
    lacp says:

    I didn’t watch the debate, but heard a very brief spot from Larry Kane on KYW here in Philly this a.m. He didn’t make it sound like some sort of smashing victory for Willard; in fact, I was left with the impression he thought it was a draw.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    In a basketball analogy Mitt scored 4 straight 3-pointers to Obama’s two field goals, so that’s when the coach calls the time out, to get focus back. No doubt the president will be back on the game.

  27. 27
    NotMax says:

    Just my own take, but it struck me that Obama was not so much off his feed as seemingly preoccupied with something serious and delicate underway that necessitates the president’s hands-on attention.

    If I had to make guesses in the dark, I’d say related to the latest escalation involving Syria/Lebanon/Turkey (and thereby including as behind the scenes actors both Saudi Arabia and Egypt), or possibly the Kenyan action in Somalia’s Kismayo area.

  28. 28
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    Going to cast my ballot this afternoon. Also staying in my office with the door closed, lest some smirking under-educated over-privileged white man open his goddamn piehole near me.

  29. 29
    jwb says:

    I’m torn on this one, at least in part because I’m uncertain as to whether Obama’s performance last night was the result of deliberate strategy or of being distracted or of things not going the way he expected. I also found I couldn’t keep the debate on very long without becoming agitated. I did watch about 5 minutes of it on TV in a hotel lobby where I was far enough away that I couldn’t here the sound clearly. In that, Romney looked hyperactive. In any case, the immediate reactions by blogs, twitter and pundits was that Romney won the debate, but the focus was all on theatrics and the scoring presumed that aggressive trumps everything else.

    I keep coming back to the fact that the Obama campaign has been very disciplined this election, so unless the President was sick or distracted by the situation in the Middle East or something, I tend to think that the strategy tonight was to draw Romney into statements the campaign could use for ads and talking points while minimizing what Obama gave Romney’s campaign to use. By that count, Obama scored a resounding success. At the same time, that is a very conservative strategy and one not calibrated to help with the downticket elections—I think this is the source of much of the blog left’s frustration: they want to go all in on the House even at considerable downside risk of the presidency, whereas the Obama campaign is above all concerned with winning at the presidential level. The strategy adopted seemed a step away from nationalizing the election. If that’s the case, it also suggests that those who are concerned about the House would do better giving either to DCCC or directly to particular House candidates.

  30. 30
    Rex Everything says:

    Did you really just refer to yourself and the other party hacks here as DFHs?

  31. 31
    beltane says:

    From what I’m observing on FB, the positive effect of last night’s debate is that it is energizing formerly complacent Democrats. Romney has gone from being the subject of robot jokes to being the Evil One who must be politically and psychologically destroyed at all costs.

  32. 32
    Nied says:

    What I don’t get is that most of the liberal blogs I’ve been reading are silent, not posting “woe is us” sotries, just silent. TPM after some good reporting on Romney being fact checked by his own campaign has basically gone dark. The Great Orange Satan has a few tepid peices up about big bird but that’s it. Greg Sergent seems to be sleeping it off. You’d think with stories Like this:;sc=tw
    And this: sitting on their respective sites front pages you’d think people would screaming this from the rooftops, but instead there’s nothing.

  33. 33
    General Stuck says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    We saw an entirely different debate then. He demeanor was certainly reserved more than usual, but the words he spoke were clear and precise to whatever the topic was and his position on the issue at hand. I don’t know how you normally engage someone who is lying with every breath, and not get caught up in excessive emo that wouldn’t rub off on you. The only honest response to Romney last night was to call him a motor mouth liar. We see that here on blogs with some troll types. You enter their deranged world at your own risk of caught up in the pathology.

  34. 34
    Cassidy says:

    I still think this won’t be a big deal. Yeah, the Villagers were stroking their woodies like a Catholic Prienst, but the media is still pissed at Mittens and Opey. I honestly don’t see them reverting to hacktacular all over again, knowing how they’ll be treated. Secondly, Mittens has no concept of overreach. He’ll get told he was amazing last night, listen to Todd’s post-coital sweet musings and then fuck it up by asking for the early morning sloppy blowjob and Crowley still hasn’t brushed her teeth and is trying to manage a raging case of hangover and wondering why she’s wearing a strap-on.

    He’ll go to far sometime today.

  35. 35
    ericblair says:

    Modern debates are Rorschach tests which tell you a lot more about the personality of the commenter than the actual debaters. I think Obama looked tired, but it seems that he did what he wanted to do, which is troll for ad material and not open himself up for attack ads on himself.

    Everybody who runs a win-the-microsecond shoutfest cable show thought Obama sucked. Very true, if Obama was on a win-the-microsecond shoutfest cable show, but he wasn’t. We go through this every time, there’s a reason the “Chill I Got This” poster exists, and everyone can take their medication and come back tomorrow.

    Also, you’ll notice the lefty blogs full of people who are purportedly ready to buck public opinion no matter what the cost and push the toughest no-compromise debate lines are the first to wet their pants and slash their wrists when it looks like something’s not going their way. You can fight all the powers-that-be to change the world forever, or you can get a pat on the head and a cuddle and your mom telling you that everything’s going to be great, but it’s pretty hard to do both.

  36. 36
    Kadzimiel says:


    Over 49, not 54. And they all self-identified as moderate or conservative. No liberals. White, college-educated, southerners.

    In other words: the teabagger demographic.

  37. 37
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @D.N. Nation: Reich left, IIRC, in protest over the welfare reform bill….

  38. 38
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Rex Everything: Yes.

    @beltane: My impression too. I’m feeling in my gut the same roil and rage that I did after listening to Sarah Palin’s first two speeches. I’m fired up and ready to go!

  39. 39
    Bulworth says:

    I didn’t, couldn’t, watch the debate. I know myself well enough to know I probably wouldn’t have slept afterwards or would have thrown one of the cats through the teevee or both.

    After reading all the headlines now and a few blog posts on the subject I’m curious: in what substantive way did Obama lose, or not bring it, last night? Were there substantive things that Romney “won” on or is all the hyperventilating today about style points? And I know style points are important in our FoxCNNMSNBC world.

  40. 40
    Culture of Truth says:

    Yes, I believe he was on the phone with NATO just before the debate.

  41. 41
    rlrr says:

    Ask President Kerry how much a strong debate performance matters….

  42. 42
    Schlemizel says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    You keep whistling past that grave yard, if it’ll make you feel better.

    Did you not see the pre-debate coverage? It was like Gameday on ESPN. Have you not followed debates in the past? All the press wants to report on is who won or who lost. (“Lets not argue over ‘oo killed ‘oo”). This is nothing but a sporting event to those vapid, festering, anuses spewing methane on TV. The methane this morning is all about Mitt.

    It may not matter to you but you are not someone either Willard or President Obama was trying to reach last night. The people they wanted to reach are exactly the kind that deeply inhale the methane – you can tell by the brain damage it causes.

  43. 43
    Dave says:

    @ericblair: You got that last part right. I made the mistake of visiting the GOS today and you have people in there saying that the debate will give Romney VA and NH in the election. Complete emo insanity.

  44. 44
    MikeJ says:


    Off-topic, and it has been mentioned multiple times in other threads, the CNN “poll” they are touting is journalistic malfeasance. 100% of respondents were white Southerners over 55. How is that scientifically valid?

    It’s been explained in multiple threads, your numbers are wrong.

  45. 45
    4tehlulz says:

    In this debate, we learned that Mitt wants to fire Big Bird and Jim Lehrer (to his face, no less), wants to destroy the public school system with vouchers, and has a keep secret plan to end the war against the middle class.

    Mitt may have won tactically last night, but he lost strategically by having the overall narrative of him as a principless dbag reinforced.

  46. 46
    McJulie says:

    Personally, I thought it was a draw which is being seen as an Obama loss because his supporters were disappointed while Romney supporters were pleased.

    So I’m not gonna feed that narrative. Obama didn’t lose. He merely failed to wipe the floor with Romney’s sodden carcass, which is what we all wanted to see.

  47. 47
    Cacti says:

    No campaign is a single event. Counting today there are 32 full days to go before the polls open on Tuesday, November 6

    And early voting has already started and will pick up more states in the coming weeks.

  48. 48
    D.N. Nation says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    So, like Saint Russ, he took his ball and went home. Weak sauce.

  49. 49
    beltane says:

    @Tom Levenson: Yes, it feels exactly like Palin’s RNC speech when there were immediate calls to destroy “Stormfront Barbie”. With any luck at all (not to mention hard work) this Thanksgiving will feature a dazed and defeated Romney mouthing off in front of a turkey abattoir.

  50. 50
    Trakker says:

    Kudos to the GOP for finding the perfect stand-in for their candidate, he looked remarkably like Mitt! What gave it away is that Romney would never do coke. Also, props for shaking the Etch-a-Sketch again – that really sealed the win last night, GOP.

    And where was the moderator during the debate? Was he one of the NFL’s substitute refs? They should let moderators taze candidates who won’t shut up or are rude.

    I know how Obama must have felt last night. He thought he was attending a business meeting and arrived to find it was really a bar fight.

  51. 51
    wrb says:


    that is a very conservative strategy and one not calibrated to help with the downticket elections

    It could cut the other way: money that was going to shift to down-ticket races is now more likely to stick with Romney.

  52. 52
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Dave: VA is and has been a legit tossup, but NH would require a swing on the order of 8-10%.

    Na. Ga. Happen.

  53. 53
    Kevin says:

    Romney did something I did not expect, but should have: he adopted the “Gish Gallop.” If you’re at all acquainted with creationist debating tactics, it involves throwing out so many untruthful or contradictory assertions that the opponent (1) can’t correct them fast enough and (2) can’t get their own talking points out. It uses the rapid-fire, on-to-our-next question format to maximum advantage.

    How to combat it? I don’t know in this case. In the creationist context, some people have had success with sticking to the facts and not taking the bait. Other scientists avoid “debates” altogether. Here, that’s not an option, but I do think challenging Romney’s assertions more would be helpful.

  54. 54
    Dave says:

    @MikeJ: I got the 55 wrong. It was over 49. The all-white, all-Southern part? That was right.

  55. 55
    NotMax says:

    The biggest problem with last night’s program was the live meltdown of Jim Lehrer, who went from news media patriarch and moderator to Captain Dunsel in 15 minutes.

  56. 56
    Schlemizel says:


    IF that is true and not just our fervent hopes it make me really appreciate Clinton even more. How that guy kept his head on straight with all the plates he was spinning and the GOP investigating his breathing and bowel movements AND maintain a sense of humor I’ll never understand.

    I’d have gone all Capt. Queeg on the country

  57. 57
    bemused says:

    I had to smack my head again as Stephanie Miller just played the clip where Mitt said,

    I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it”.

    No doubt! Projection much?

  58. 58
    hueyplong says:

    Can’t help but notice that since the debate I’ve now seen at least a half dozen references to “whistling past the graveyard” on this website after Willard’s first very good day in the last 30 or so.

    And the reference is always in the first sentence of a multi-paragraph post.

    It will be interesting to see how many more there are.

  59. 59
    beltane says:

    @Nied: I’ve seen the NPR story re-posted multiple times on FB along with another one from the Annenberg Foundation accusing Romney of “serial exaggeration”.

  60. 60
    amk says:

    The ads are already here.

    So you can all douse that fire that’s making you go bald.

  61. 61
    MikeJ says:

    @Dave: No it wasn’t. They didn’t report the others in the cross tabs because the margin of error would have been too high.

    There may not have been enough of the other demos, but there were general about 100 of each of the categories you said had none.

  62. 62
    Davis X. Machina says:

    John Sides asks “How Much Will The Debate Shift the Polls?”

    His answer: 1.25%

  63. 63
    GregB says:

    It should again be noted that any bump or increase in the polls will be touted as great proof of a Romney resurgence.

    All of the weeks long attacks on the veracity of polling by the GOP will be instantly buried and lost down the memory hole.

    The polls! Look at the polls! We’re up in the polls!

  64. 64
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    You do realize that all of this “winning” only has to do with winning the opinion derby of pundits and political obsessives though right? Even winning the post-debate spin part, but especially the debate itself.

    A moment ago some Republican political consultant on the TV thinking she was being magnanimous said look a single debate is one battle, and if you lose one debate that’s just one battle, but if you lose more of them then you lose “the war”.

    So in her mind, a political campaign is made of discreet battles consisting of debates, and whoever “wins” more debates is automatically elected President.

    I think the best you could say is that if Obama smacked Romney around more, a lot of Obama supporters would feel better. Assuming that it would make him more likely to be reelected is a big jump from there however, and there’s just as much of a chance that it could make it less likely IMO.

  65. 65
    Cacti says:


    And the reference is always in the first sentence of a multi-paragraph post

    Noticed that too, did you?

    I also noticed that it’s mostly coming from unfamiliar names.

    Funny that.

    It’s the internet equivalent of the 1960’s “hippie” selling weed on the corner, who forgot to take off his wingtips before getting into costume.

  66. 66
    scav says:

    I’ll offer up a mild bit of punditizing happy feathering for those in need of a happy feather. If Obama likes to counterpunch, then maybe a few punches need to land first.

    Sans blankie, I’m basically with TomL and most of the above. I think, moreover, some rope was played out, and bit, and there should be some new good clips to play into the ads demonstrating how many sides of a position Romney can hold.

  67. 67
    peggy says:

    It was hard to watch the debates. Keep in mind what I noticed in 2008. Obama is a black man- he can’t get angry. I don’t know if he can confront Romney as a liar. There are lines he can’t cross.

  68. 68
    aimai says:

    I look at it this way–if Romney’s supporters think they’ve “won” what they think they’ve won is that they’ve impressed some number of voters out there, in the sticks. If so then they probably think their job is more or less done. The story they’ve told themselves is that Romney’s “message” can’t get throught the MSM and if “their voters” only knew the “real” Mitt then: Victory. So: what is their plan to actually get these voters to the polls? We know from the PA debacle that they don’t have a fall back plan B that involves actual voters. Meanwhile Obama’s team is entirely focused, still, on ground game as they always have been. So while I personally feel Obama “lost” the debate as a debate–partially because a loyal supporter like me simply couldn’t watch it because it was like seeing Satan kick my puppy to death–I think this might actually be the high water mark for Romney’s supporters and for the campagaign as a whole. I think if he does garner any real voter support for these “positions” it will dissapate as the positions become clear. And I think it gives a kind of dutch courage–or maybe I should say a “sugar high” to the very people Romney needs to energize to do more than merely root for him to push Obama’s face in. Cheering is not the same thing as voting.


  69. 69
    Tom Levenson says:

    @amk: Saw that too (at DKos, whom I will now go up and credit) and just posted that as an update.

  70. 70
    Schlemizel says:


    But we sort of knew that was coming, right? The methane factory has to have a horse race so they are going to kling to any slight show of life by Rmoney are proof he is on the come back trail. That makes this debate dangerous.

  71. 71
    McJulie says:

    @Bulworth: in what substantive way did Obama lose, or not bring it

    I think the perception is that Romney held the floor too much and Obama didn’t challenge the narrative enough. But, as I said above, I think that resulted in more or less a draw, not an Obama loss.

    I think there was a hope/fear that Romney would be as bad at debating as he has been at campaigning. When he wasn’t, one side is disappointed, one side is relieved.

  72. 72
    Tractarian says:

    My impression is that, once again, the media is out of step with voters.

    Recall that in 2008, most pundits initially declared McCain victorious in the first debate – then they saw the results of instant polls, which overwhelmingly favored Obama, and they changed their tune.

    This year, pundits unanimously declared Mitt the winner of the debate – but again, this stands in contrast to the opinions of actual voters.

    What’s that you say? Romney won the instant polls too? Well, yes, but look closer. Take the most lopsided poll – CNN’s instant poll showing more people thought Romney won, by about a 2:1 margin. First, that poll heavily oversampled over-50 southern white men. “Unskew” the poll (and here it actually makes statistical sense to do so) and the results would be radically different.

    But assume for the sake of argument that the CNN instant poll was demographically accurate. That means 30 percent of voters thought Obama won the debate. Who are these people? They sure aren’t represented anywhere on TV (not even on liberal MSNBC). They sure aren’t represented anywhere in the blogosphere (lefty bloggers are unanimous in their hand-wringing concessions of defeat).

    Ask yourself: have you heard on TV, or read online, anyone think the President won that debate? And yet, at least 30 percent of poll respondents thought so.

    The fact is, undecided voters (that is, the very few who are left) do not base their decisions on who seems more like an “alpha male” and who is able to flip-flop most gracefully. They base their decisions on who they feel more in tune with. I’m not suggesting that Obama won those voters last night. What I’m suggesting that the obnoxious, loud, bullying, dissembling candidate didn’t win them either.

    (Sh*t, given the favorability gap – and given the fact that most people have already made up their minds about these men – I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama gets a “sympathy bump” in the polls from this debate.)

  73. 73

    @The Moar You Know:
    So it wasn’t only me who noticed.

    I definitely got a ‘fuck this stupid BS’ vibe from Obama’s performance.

  74. 74
    McJulie says:

    @Kevin: Gish Gallop! Bingo! That’s exactly what Romney was doing. And I think it’s part of where the “Obama lost” narrative comes from — Romney said so many untrue things, and Obama challenged him on only a handful of them.

  75. 75
  76. 76
    hueyplong says:

    Cacti, I don’t know the “regular” names very well, and was hoping to tease out a comment about that. Thanks for addressing my suspicion on that particular point (though events such as debates probably drive up traffic that includes visitors who cannot fairly be described as “trolls”).

    I’m always suspicious of repeated metaphors that get into eliminationist type stuff. It seems like such a tell because it’s very nearly the official language of the right wing in our current “discourse.” They seem to think that it’s a binary world in which the only options are “a$$hole” and “weakling.”

  77. 77
    Nied says:

    @beltane: Well good. Still Youd think stories like that would be all over TPM and the Plum line. The most I’ve seen is a recced diary on Kos.

    And right after I hit submit Kos has a youtube of an ABC report talking about how Mitt’s claims were “mostly fictional.”


  78. 78
    rlrr says:

    FWIW, my teenage daughter thought Romney came off as creepy during the debate…

  79. 79
    cmorenc says:

    The problem is that the Romney lies and contradictions were there for the taking by Obama, despite the aggressive, glib cloud of colorful smoke and misdirection Romney spit out to try to conceal them, but Obama repeatedly failed to seize numerous opportunities to succinctly blow away the smoke cloud and succinctly, clearly show the pile of bullshit behind it. FOR EXAMPLE: Romeny’s assertion that he has NOT proposed cutting $5 Trillion in revenue, just a 20% reduction in rates offset by closing deductions and loopholes. SUCCINCT ANSWER: Federal Income Tax Revenue under current rates are projected to be $25 trillion over the next decade. If you reduce rates across the board by 20%, that necessarily reduces revenue by 20%, that is $5 trillion dollars, UNLESS you can specify exactly what factors in your plan compensate for this loss. You’ve been repeatedly asked, and have repeatedly refused to specify what tax deductions you’d eliminate, particularly any which are even remotely large enough alone or in combination to offset even a small fraction of the lost revenue from your proposal. Or if not through deductions, what specific portion are you assuming will be made up from increased tax revenues from increased economic growth rather than elimination of deductions? If lowering tax rates on upper-income people is such a strong factor in producing growth, particularly that which benefits the broad middle class, where’s the evidence of all this purported growth over the past decade from the Bush tax cuts? You’re trying to sell us a shiny car, promising us what a powerful, efficient engine it has, but refuse to let us look under the hood to inspect it.”

  80. 80
    Rex Everything says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I’m feeling in my gut the same roil and rage that I did when Ric Flair called Hulk Hogan a mama’s boy. I’m fired up and ready to go!

    I’m not sure: are you quoting the Port Huron Statement here?

  81. 81
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Kevin: Exactly what I thought watching it. The thing creationists love too is that it legitimizes them when they get to debate real scientists. Mitt can count it as a win to finally debate someone real, instead of those clowns in the Republican primaries.

    I know it would take some guts, but I would love it if some candidate actually came forward and refused to debate. Debates are pointless, if we want contrasting messages we already have the party conventions. No one who watched last night’s debate came away any more informed.

  82. 82
    Linda Featheringill says:


    I think mistermix and doug are hiring a liveblogging server for a month so we can follow along even when BJ is overloaded and bogged down. Maybe it will get better.

  83. 83
    gene108 says:

    @D.N. Nation:

    2 off the top of my head: FMLA, sCHIP.

    Under appreciated step in the right-direction/compromise, when going all-in for gays to serve in the military wasn’t getting enough support: DADT.

    Though DADT is mocked by many liberals, it was an improvement over the 100% bar to gays serving in the military, whether in the closet or not, that was the law prior to it. It opened up the idea that being gay wasn’t an inherent bar to serving in the military, without which we wouldn’t have gotten to gays openly serving now.

  84. 84
    Jennifer says:

    As I said already, I don’t think either of them “won.”

    Obama was overly passive but did a credible job of stating his positions and why they were superior to Rmoney’s.

    Rmoney lied his ass off, was hyperkinetic, and came off as a glib, fast-talking snake oil salesman.

    Anyone who says Rmoney “won” is saying so because he didn’t back off his lying and wasn’t apologetic about it in the least.

    Those who think Obama “won” are probably basing it on his unflappability and slow-and-steady wins the race demeanor.

    I did an experiment – the debate was deadly boring as all of you know – and I wandered off for a few minutes about halfway through, resolving to come back and watch from the perspective of someone who isn’t going in looking for Obama to bitchslap Romney. Here’s what stood out, when watching from that perspective: Romney never denied he planned to give me a Medicare voucher. His “won’t change a thing for anyone 55 or older” really jumped out. Most voters are under 55; I’m sure it would grab their attention too, particularly those who truly are undecided. Obama did a good though not overly dramatic job of explaining to all of us under-55’s what the implications of Rmoney’s voucher plan are. Rmoney lost the point by never denying that this is, in fact, his plan – to fuck over everyone under 55 – and here another thing stood out: his “defense” was to again go back and essentially say “I don’t give a shit about those folks; old people, just note that I’m looking out for you.”

    There wasn’t anything else that jumped out at me like that one point, but I did notice that the rest of the “debate” (if one could really call it that) followed the same pattern: Rmoney would either lie or try to obfuscate the true impact of things he had been touting, Obama would calmly explain why what Rmoney was saying couldn’t be true (without calling him a liar) and Willard would come back and just repeat the same bullshit he said the first time, rather than actually rebutting the facts and figures Obama had used to sketch out why what he was saying couldn’t be true. That left undecided me as a viewer with the unshakable impression that yes, Rmoney was a lying sack of shit with a stealth agenda. Reason? With an upfront agenda, you can support it with more than just talking points. Rmoney didn’t do that. Obama gave him ample opportunity, and he didn’t do that, and undecided me had to conclude that it was because he COULDN’T do that, because he wasn’t being honest.

    Last but not least, undecided me would have slammed the door in the fact of door-to-door salesman Rmoney; his demeanor and mannerisms were that offensive. Seriously, I had a guy show up once selling Rainbow vacuums who I kicked out of the house for general obnoxiousness – he had the same bullying demeanor Rmoney adopted last night, coupled with the fast talk and the failure to do anything other than recite selling points by rote. That may be a woman thing more than anything else, but he really looked like a big jerk. Obama on the other hand just looked lackluster, but in undecided me’s book, lackluster is far preferable to big jerk.

    Talking heads are all about the style and zero about the substance. I don’t think the majority of folks approach this stuff the same way they do.

  85. 85
    Can't Be Bothered says:

    The fact that you two think that anyone with an unfamiliar name is a republican plant is hilarious. Anyone capable of any realistic sober assessment knows that obama got whipped last night (including the author of this post) The extent to which you are creating fictions about “unfamiliars” and the debate really being good for obama just shows how much of a circlejerk this site has become.

  86. 86
    Mino says:

    What about the money??? Will this put off the money heading downstream for Republicans?? It might cause some of the big both-sides-of-the-street doners from giving to O, but maybe he can afford it and increase Dem chances downballot. Could be a silver lining.

  87. 87
    Maude says:

    @General Stuck:
    Obama kept feeding Romney rope and Romney took enough to hang himself. It’s about timing. Obama knows what he is doing.
    The 5 trillion will play out. I saw on Twitter that people weren’t letting the debate play out to it’s conclusion. Everything was this instant reaction.
    I wish Obama would get some rest, but he was as sharp as a tack last evening.
    The emotional stuff fades quickly. It’s the facts that will stand and Romney has serious problems with those.

  88. 88
    JustAnotherBob says:

    My impression was that Romney came out lying and rushing to the left, not just to the center, but to the left.

    PBO just pulled back and let Romney run.

    Now all the “important” people have video of Romney making statements one would expect from a Democratic candidate, all sorts of “regulations are necessary and good” stuff.

    I’d say Round 1 of Rope-a-Dope might appear like a Romney win but it was really Romney doing massive damage to himself. He threw a bunch of wild-assed swings and achieved little other than making his arms tired which will make it harder for him to defend himself when the counter punching begins.

    And, as the linked ad demonstrates, effective punches are now being thrown.

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