Washington, DC, October 4, 2012
by Robert J. Guttman
Debates do matter.
Especially as was the case on October 3rd at the first live presidential debate showed one candidate came out slugging and ready to debate and the other looked like he would rather be somewhere else.
Romney won by a knockout. He came out fast and furious. I kept waiting for Obama to perk up and get in the game but after twenty minutes the tone and style of the debate was clear.
The president appeared tired and listless and really not engaged. He gave broad and rather canned answers to whatever was asked by the moderator.
On the other side, Romney showed a lively personality and a strong grasp of the key domestic issues of the day.
The president failed to convince us why he should be re-elected in the debate. As I have said ,along with others , it is very hard to convince voters that times are good when they know and can see that times are bad.
Basically, the president was saying he could accomplish his goals if only the voters will give him four more years.
But Romney blew away that argument by saying over and over that the next four years would be the same or worse than these past four years of high unemployment and a massive deficit.
Maybe the thin air of the mile high city of Denver and a lack of a teleprompter threw the president off his game.
Or maybe he is out of practice. Romney was coming off his many debates in the primary season while the president has rarely faced the media as he gives few press conferences these days.
I hosted a debate forum at Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Government and the students overwhelmingly said that Romney won the debate hands down.
Even my most ardent and die-hard Democratic students surprised me with their disappointment in Obama’s debate performance.
For the past two days I had put on mock presidential debates with the students in my classes at Johns Hopkins and George Washington Universities and most of the students predicted that Obama would win by charming the audience with his characteristic charisma.
But he must have left his charisma and his facts and figures on the basketball court because he definitely lost the debate.
Debates matter in elections and the first debate in this general election certainly mattered. It will be the most watched of all the debates this month.
Romney proved he could hold his own against the president. Romney showed a much livelier personality than I have seen on the campaign trail so far.
Romney asked if the president could justify his domestic economic policies and Obama failed to show why he should be re-elected for another term.
The race takes on a new dimension and it will be a close race down to the finish line.
Don’t count out Obama on just one poor debate. He will come roaring back in the next two debates.
Ronald Reagan gave a poor performance in his first debate with his challenger Walter Mondale in 1984 and people worried that the president might not be up to the task at his age.
But then Reagan came back in great fashion in the second debate as the great communicator said as how he would not exploit for political advantage his opponent’s youth and inexperience.
That one zinger helped lead to one of the largest presidential political landslides in American history. Reagan re-assured the voters that he was still ready to lead.
Before this first debate both candidates were downplaying their debating skills. Analysts were saying that Obama could put the election away with a good performance as he has done in the past. Most people were expecting a tie at best.
But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been proven right that the first debate was a game changer and did indeed turn the race around.
Romney received the boost he needed by showing he knows how to debate.
Romney showed he certainly deserves to be on the same stage with the president of the United States.
And, by his performance in the first debate he just might become the next president of the United States.