If the first presidential debate were a boxing match, Romney would have won on points.
Being neither Democrat nor Republican, liberal or conservative, I have no champion in the ring. But being the modern pied piper of propaganda analysis and having spent way too much of my life in marketing, I can see when a product pitch works or doesn’t, even when the product is a politician and their promises can be placed in the circular file cabinet before November.
Last night was a match between a mechanic and a brand. Romney was studied and prepared, repeatedly bringing the debate back to the center subject and hammering almost wonkish talking points while denying Obama his (Mitt’s most repeated statement was that Barack was not relating Romney’s position accurately). When Obama slid into vague generalities, Romney doubled down on data. If we are to believe that independent voters – the people who will decide this election – do pay attention to issues more than emotions, then they will have faith that Romney knows what he is talking about.
Barack was better at image, which cynical people will assert is all he consists of. If Romney learns nothing from the post-game review, he needs to know where to find the camera. Mitt would talk to the moderator, talk to Obama and occasionally to the few hundred people in the audience. Obama looked directly into the camera, speaking eye-to-eye with millions. With notable exceptions, Obama also kept his “Chicago cool” persona while Romney appeared to be over caffeinated (which is against his religion, so we’ll assume meth abuse).
Obama had style, though it has thinned more than his hair.
Obama propaganda (is that a redundant phrase?) was evident in the early stages, and grew weaker as he became flustered. He cited unnamed “independent analyst” which is like citing unbiased climate researchers – they exist, but odds are Obama’s were hand chosen by the Cherry Picker in Chief. He bemoaned low job growth in 2001 and 2003 which was an odd time frame since 2001 involved recovery from the Clinton recession and the start of a war filled decade. He kept harping on how disengaging the federal government from state management of Medicare would result in a “30% cut”, which ignored the power of state government to tax locally and optimize programs freed from federal guidelines.
Obama lobbed dewat rhetorical hand grenades.
Most interesting though was Obama’s over-reliance on heart tugging. He mentioned his grandma twice, rolled out the young, old, sick and destitute without meaningful connection to policy or plans. He retreated to emotional appeals when he lacked firm policy footing, which was often. He even ended this domestic policy debate by propping-up Osama bin Laden’s corpse.
Points matter. The Electoral College system is weighted scorekeeping, and one that will be interesting to watch in the coming days. It appears that the media’s message about the election being over was wrong.