Today on Facebook and elsewhere, I noticed some of my liberal friends having a bit of a freak-out over Wednesday night’s debate. The pundits immediately declared it a crushing Romney victory...which was odd, because Ken and I didn’t see it that way at all. Immediately afterwards, I said that I’d give a slight win to Romney, both because of the low expectations for him and because of President Obama’s lackluster performance. Ken felt the same way.
Of course, the following day, teeth were gnashing and voices were wailing. I wish I could have passed some smelling salts out to folks. I stepped back for a moment, read several stories about it, and really thought about my perception of the debate. One thing became clear very quickly: Romney may have seemed forceful and sharp, but he was not very truthful. I’m being nice. He LIED. A LOT. I’m not going to list them all here. Do you know why? Because there are so freakin’ many of them! Besides, others have done a fine job with checking up on what he said. You can read about it here (Mittens is bad at math edition), here (Bullshit Contest edition), and a comprehensive list here (Lie, lie, and lie again edition). My initial hopes that people would start doing some fact checking and calling Mittens to the shed for his lies turned out to be true. The teabagger base types might have loved his chest-thumping, testosterone-laden silverback impression, but I’m guessing independents and undecideds were not quite as enamored of the display...especially when he blatantly lied about numerous things.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of one exchange in particular, in which Mittens disputed the $5 trillion tax cut claim made by Obama. Never mind the fact that the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has estimated that the tax cuts that Romney champions would amount to that over the next decade. The exchange went something like this:
Obama: blah blah blah your $5 trillion in tax cuts...
Romney: I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut.
Obama: Yes, you do.
Romney: No, I don’t.
Obama: Yes, you do!
Romney: No, I don’t!
Argument Clinic, anyone? Good grief.
Anyway, I came to the conclusion that the reason I saw the debate so differently is because I was expecting facts, and I got them from Obama. I know enough about some of the topics that I knew that Romney was lying about several things. So I was rating the winner on substance. I should have known better, because people often determine a winner based on style rather than substance. (I believe that it was also in the media’s best interest to make this a closer race than it is at the moment, but that’s a topic for another day.) Romney came across as forceful and combative, and Obama seemed listless and disengaged. I do understand part of the reasoning there...sitting Presidents should behave in a presidential manner, and all that...but he was a little too cool and detached for many people. (Although I appreciate that in him, I know that not everyone does.)
So some folks were a little wigged out. Obama has lost the election. Obama blew it. Romney’s going to win. Dogs and cats living together. A new Nickelback album. I finally sent an email to some friends saying that everyone needs to take a deep breath. This was ONE DEBATE in an entire campaign. Romney lied, the fact checkers are on it, and he provided all kinds of fodder for Obama ads. (Sure enough, one was released in seven swing states the very next day.) Obama is known for his competitiveness, and you can bet that he will not be that passive in the final two debates. One is a town hall format—and we know that Obama does well connecting with people in town hall formats—about domestic and foreign policy, and the final debate is about foreign policy. I wonder if Osama bin Laden will be watching that one? Oh, wait! He can’t, ‘cause he’s DEAD!
I think it’s also important to keep in mind that debates usually don’t matter. Almost everyone has already made up their minds who they are going to vote for by this time, and that seems more true than ever in this highly polarized atmosphere. There is a very small percentage of undecided voters (many of them could also be considered uninformed voters who have not been paying much attention and aren’t into politics at all), and an even smaller percentage of those are in swing states. An undecided voter in Texas who votes for Obama isn’t going to matter fuck-all to the electoral college vote, just as an undecided voter in Illinois who ends up voting for Romney isn’t going to matter. So the target audience is not a huge number of people. As for those who have already made up their minds, do you really think that debate is going to swing someone like me? Do you really think I sat there and watched that and said, “Hey...I think I’m going to rethink this Romney guy”? Not on your life. Will Romney get a bump in the polls? Undoubtedly. Will it be enough to change the trajectory of the race? History says not.
It’s time to put away the smelling salts and get a grip. Team Obama and the DNC raised over $150 million in September. Today’s job report was, overall, good news, with the unemployment rate down to 7.8%. Jobs are expected to be added for the holiday season, optimism is rising, and a majority of people feel that the economy is improving (that’s because it is). The stock market closed today at 13,600+, up almost 25% from a year ago. The facts are on our side. We’ve still got work to do, and we’ve got about a month to do it. Anyone who thinks that debate completely changed the game needs to do a little more reading, because there are more forces and influences at work here than that.
This video seems like a good way to end things today. Buck up, liberal citizens. It’s not over till I say it’s over! Well, technically, it’s Congress who validates the electoral college vote, but...oh, never mind, just watch this!
And ROCK THE VOTE!