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A Debate That “Changed Debates Forever”


Now that was a debate befitting “my people” in Nassau County.

I grew up about five miles from Hofstra University in Hempstead so I know Long Islanders like a good fight.

And the second presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney Tuesday night was all of that and more.

It was a great TV show.

A friend of mine heard ABC analyst George Will call it the best debate in history.

CBS News anchor Scott Pelley said “we never have seen anything like that” and added “this will be the night … Presidential debates were changed forever.”

Pelley continued that the President and Romney were toe-to-toe “in the most rancorous debate ever.”

“The President certainly accomplished what he failed to accomplish in the first debate,” added Pelley.

CBS analyst John Dickerson added that at one point it looked like moderator Candy Crowley “was going to ask them to go outside.”

NBC’s Brian Williams referenced the Robert DeNiro boxing movie “Raging Bull.”

“Liberals can breathe a sigh of relief,” added NBC’s David Gregory. “The President showed up and showed up big time.”

A quick CBS poll had President Obama winning 37 percent to 30 percent, with 33 percent calling it a draw.

A quick CNN poll of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans who watched it had the President winning 46-39 percent.

That verdict was consistent with the analysis on ABC, where Matthew Dowd (who worked for President George W. Bush) and Democrat Donna Brazile declared the President the winner and Republican Nicole Wallace blamed Crowley for giving the President more time. (Fact check: Romney gave the President extra time by asking him questions during his own time.) Brazile quickly noted that Republicans always blame the referees after they lose debates. Good point.

Crowley was no Martha Raddatz but she had a tougher job forcing these heavyweights to follow the rules than Raddatz did in the vice presidential denbate.

President Obama did better in the post-mortems than I expected before the debate. My theory was that the pundits would most likely call it a draw no matter who won. Several did just that, including NBC’s Savannah Guthrie who said there “were good performances by both candidates.”

I thought the President won more decisively on points and style than he was given credit for and that Romney came off as Joe Biden at times by being rude and even holding back a laugh once when he disagreed with what the President was saying. According to the instant reactions of a CNN focus group in Ohio, Romney had seven low moments to the President’s three.

Romney’s best strategy was talking about creating jobs about 12 million times by somehow growing the economy. Smart move. He was instantly fact-checked as wrong by Crowley on what the President said after the attacks a day after the attacks in Benghazi. Dumb move. When the governor tried to score points on a tragedy that cost four American lives, he gave the President an opportunity to illustrate his passion and defend his administration.

The President smartly took the blame for what happened in Libya and said he found Romney’s  suggestion that anyone in his administration would “play politics or mislead” under those tragic circumstances in Libya “offensive.” It was the President’s strongest moment. CNN’s focus group of those undecided voters in Ohio overwhelmingly thought Romney mishandled the Libya question, as did most analysts.

Romney also may have damaged himself with a couple of “Saturday Night Live” moments, including one in which he answered a question about the need for equal pay for women by suggesting that they needed to get home to cook dinner.

In another unintentionally funny moment, Romney asked the President if he had looked at his pension lately. “I don’t look at my pension, it is not as big as yours,” cracked the President, hitting Romney with his massive pocketbook.

I thought the President ate Romney’s lunch frequently after losing his lunch (and perhaps the presidency) in the first debate. If you’re going to take points away from Biden for being too aggressive, then you have to use the same criteria for Romney. The President also won with the instant fact-checkers on most issues.

What does it mean? Who knows? I think NBC’s Chuck Todd said it best.

“We’re headed for a grind-it-out last 22 days,” said Todd.

In other words, don’t bet your pension (if you have one) or dinner on who is going to win the next debate or the November election.


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15 responses to "A Debate That “Changed Debates Forever”"

  1. Rob says:

    Alan, let’s try and be fair and also point out that when Romney won the first debate all the Dems and Libs were having a stroke about Jim Lehrer and blaming him. It’s a playbook from both sides.

    You also proved my point by saying Dems thought Obama won, Republicans thought Romney won and you think Obama ate his lunch. So I guess we have subtlety figured out which way you lean, even if you won’t come right out and admit it.

    • alanp says:

      Look at the facts Rob. A CNN poll that skewed Republican had the President winning. Obviously even a lot of Republicans thought he won. I said Romney won the first debate big time. That was as obvious as the President winning this time. ABC’s Dowd, who worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign, had the President winning. Your thesis doesn’t work. As for Lehrer, he was criticized by both sides of the aisle.

      • Rob says:

        Dowd was the only one from the right who said he won, although not by as wide a margin as what Romney did during the first debate. You were the one who said “ate his lunch”, which is consistent with what the left-leaning broadcasts were saying. Your Lehrer comment is laughable; the only left-wing guy who didn’t blame Lehrer was Al Gore who blamed the altitude.

        I said yesterday this was a home game for Obama since his strengh is these townhall meeting formats.

        • alanp says:

          Dowd wasn’t the only one from the right who said the President won. David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, also had the President winning. Brooks said on PBS he was “more poised, more fluid, more natural.”

          • Rob says:

            Umm, that’s two, hardly a majority. Maybe there’s a writer in Iowa as well who agrees with Dowd. That would make three..

  2. Tina says:

    Obama won this debate hands down.

    When I heard Romney say that he was given “binders full of women” I literally laughed out loud and can only imagine what SNL will do with it this weekend. Who says that? It was ridiculous and the only other thing he can say about what he would do to help women is he wanted the women that work for him to be able to “make it home in time to cook dinner”….OMG! Help us all if he wins.

  3. Steve says:

    Liberals on extacy…A president does better in a debate he shouldn’t have done so poorly in the first place and the left is going nuts. What a joke. This debate was a draw at best which is a sad story for Obama. Romney wins this race. Just watch.

    • alanp says:

      Steve, if you think it was a draw at best, then the President won big.

      • Tina says:

        Can you add a “like” button for comments such as this?? Anyhow…LIKE.

      • Steve says:

        Alan…I don’t understsnd your logic. If its a draw, the President loses big time. Shouldn’t the current President have the upper hand in a debate? He’s doing (or in this case not doing the job) he has the advantage.

        • alanp says:

          Actually Steve, a sitting President is a sitting target for his failures. Everyone has some. Look at the history of debates. Incumbents often lose the first one, just not as badly as Obama did.

          • Rob says:

            Alan-D; Clinton won his first one. Not a lot of historical data since debates only stared since 1960 and didn’t pick up again until ’76. Nice Rachel Maddow play there..

          • alanp says:

            Fact check Rob of first debates: Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford; Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Carter; Walter Mondale defeated incumbent Reagan; Clinton defeated incumbent George H.W. Bush; John Kerry defeated incumbent George W. Bush. You’re right on Clinton, but that was an exception against a terrible debater, Bob Dole. I rest my case.

          • Rob says:

            We are basically agreeing on the same thing. It’s easy to be this simplistic (like Maddow was) about previous wins-loss and if it was the first/second debate but there are a lot of intangibles that are a big factor; the state of the economy being one of them.

            In ’76, so close after Watergate, that debate I’ll agree buried Ford with his confusion over Eastern Europe. In 1980, with the hostages and a poor economy, Carter could have won both debates and it wouldn’t have mattered. Mondale could have won both debates and it wouldn’t have mattered. Bush Sr. could have won all debates but the Perot factor was huge as that cost him votes. Dole never would have beat Clinton if he won all the debates because of the economy doing well. The Kerry debates are the most interesting parallel to today since he did close the gap with Bush Jr but he didn’t close the deal. I could see that same scenario with Romney but the big difference between ’04 and today is the state of the economy. It’s worse today than in ’04. Stay tuned.

  4. Tina says:

    The most difficult thing to do is to admit that your candidate lost the debate. It did happen when Obama lost the first debate. Even his most ardent supporters at MSNBC admitted he didn’t do well and some even got very cranky about it. Who won or who lost is most likely a subjective point of view. With that said, you will never hear anyone on Fox say that Romney “lost” or didn’t do a great job.

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