Oct. 6 Daily News editorial

Our reaction to Wednesday night's presidential debate isn't exactly nuanced or multi-faceted.

Mitt Romney, still an underdog in the polls, won it.

Romney, well-prepped and increasingly confident, was as persuasive as we've seen him for quite some time. He showed the self-assurance that allowed him to survive an endless series of winter debates among as many as nine contentious Republican candidates and projected the "I have my numbers and positions down pat, do you?" attitude that's probably allowed him to dominate conversations and decision-making in who knows how many board rooms and business meetings over the years.

It was very much the same Romney persona that emerges in the surreptitiously taped fundraiser in Florida — minus the content that was never designed to reach the public.

If Romney was Romney, President Barack Obama was, well, nowhere. The empty chair that Clint Eastwood dragged on stage at the Republican convention would have, in some ways, been a tougher opponent for Romney.

Students of body language might have needed only a few minutes to declare Romney the winner. As we heard more than one analyst remark: "Romney finally acted like a man who wanted to be president. Obama? Suddenly, we're not so sure."

While presidential campaigns as a whole involve issues much larger than the tactics and theatrics that tend to determine the perceived "winner" of a debate, we've always thought the debates significant for the large number of voters who don't follow the campaigns day by day. If the candidates don't really do much other than re-air familiar themes and re-cover familiar ground, they're doing it in front of an audience that isn't always aware that the ground is familiar.

Some zest for this process is expected. Viewers got it from Romney, but not from Obama, who often appeared as if he wished he were somewhere else. Ten minutes into the debate, the President was in violation of many of the accepted dos and don'ts of debating:

• Do make eye contact.

• Don't fumble, mumble or be constantly checking your notes. Avoid overly long and meandering answers in favor of direct responses.

• Don't let a desire to appear "presidential" trap you into a rope-a-dope strategy where your opponent does all the hitting and you don't hit back.

• If things start to deteriorate, don't whine and blame the moderator.

It was a bad night for a campaigner with an unusual mix of strengths and weaknesses. Obama sailed through the 2008 debates against Sen. John McCain, whose campaign had already cratered by October, but Wednesday's debate tended to pigeonhole the President, yet again, as someone who can deliver a polished, effective speech but can lose his way in a format that involves give and take and doesn't allow him full control of all circumstances.

Obama let some very challenge-able Romney campaign rhetoric go unchallenged and allowed himself to be patronized by Romney as naive in the ways of commerce and finance. If there were some notes on his lectern that may have helped, it's safe to say Obama never found them.

With two debates remaining, Obama has some recovery time. The candidate who needs to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and start over, however, is the President.

(6) comments


A good and accurate summation of events. Obama was under-prepared, probably due to over confidence. After being knocked down a couple pegs he couldn't get back up. I suspect he'll come back loaded for bear next time. Mitt shouldn't get too puffed-up, though. I'm sure he has researched how many challengers have won the debate against an incumbant president but went on to lose the election.


I give you a handshake! This was one of the best Editorials you ever wrote. The Debate shows me that without the Telepromter by his side Obama is at a loss for what to say! Obama is a great reader of someone else's speech writing, he can make it look almost sincere from the heart what he reads. I have seen many times where if the Telpromter crashes, Obama don'e have any idea's of what to say! I wander if Obama will demand his Telepromter for the next 2 debates!

Diane Dick
Diane Dick

I thought Obama was more thoughtful and to the point in his responses. Whereas Romney seemed to have very well rehearsed and repetitious responses and anecdotes for use when more insight was possible. I also thought Romney was rude to the moderator, not zesty. Neither one was especially inspiring or engaging. The VP debates might provide more fireworks.


Fireworks? Yes, indeed, with Uncle Joe on stage. I'm sorta looking forward to him getting fired up...but a little worried as well :-)


Diane; You must have been sleeping through the debate. As far as rude Obama whinned more to the moderator. Romney did an excellent job of showing his views, and the difference between him, and Obama! Like I always say, If you listen to the OBama betworks long enough, you won't understand what the other side is saying!

Diane Dick
Diane Dick

Righto, Tiger. I had a hard time paying attention. I don't think the debate was a good format for discussing topics as complex as the economy, budget, or health care in the depth required to be informative. Some charts or visuals would have helped. Or maybe Ross Perot.

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