Thursday, October 04, 2012


I realize which Mitt Romney showed up last night: this one.

Watch a bit of that, especially the part that starts at 0:53. That's the Romney we saw last night -- the one whose message is "How dare you impugn my reputation by caricaturing me as some sort of extremist! That's beneath you! You are disgraceful! And while we're on the subject, here are some other ways you're disgraceful...." It's the Romney who combines angry-conservative aggression with an insistence (expressed angrily, and shamelessly at odds with the facts) that he's much more moderate than scurrilous slanderers give him credit for being. With this he wins over the rage junkies and has some appeal to centrists who have empathy.

Thus, last night we got answers like this:
ROMNEY: So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I'd say absolutely not. I'm not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I've said is I won't put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That's part one. So there's no economist that can say Mitt Romney's tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.

Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that and I know it's a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it's just not the case. Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it. But that -- that is not the case. All right? ...
I can understand why the Obama team wasn't ready for Angry, Wounded Faux-Moderate Romney -- we've been waiting for Romney to shake the Etch A Sketch and move to the center ever since he clinched the nomination, and he hadn't even pretended to do it until last night. But now we know what he's up to, at least.


I don't know how this affects the race. I've seen the polls:
Instant-reaction polls conducted by CNN and CBS News suggest that Mitt Romney was the winner of the first presidential debate.

A CNN poll of debate-watchers found Mr. Romney very clearly ahead, with 67 percent of registered voters saying he won the debate, against just 25 percent for President Obama.

A CBS News poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 46 percent siding with Mr. Romney, 22 percent for Mr. Obama and 32 percent saying it was a tie.

Google, which is experimenting with online surveys, found 38.9 percent of respondents saying they thought Mr. Obama performed better in a poll it conducted during the debate, against 35.5 percent for Mr. Romney and 25.6 percent who said it was a draw. But a second poll they conducted after the debate found 47.8 percent of respondents giving Mr. Romney the advantage, against 25.4 percent for Mr. Obama.
(UPDATE: Um, that CNN poll does not bear scrunity.)

How overwhelming is this? Somewhat less overwhelming than, um, John Kerry's poll victory after the first debate in 2004:
Newsweek's post-debate poll showed 61 percent of respondents said Kerry won, 19 percent said Bush won and 16 percent said they were undecided.

The poll also found 56 percent said Kerry did better than expected in the debate while 11 percent said the same for Bush.

In the Los Angeles Times poll, 54 percent of 725 respondents surveyed declared Kerry the winner of the debate, compared with 15 percent who said Bush won.
How'd that work out for Kerry in November?

Romney's going to get a boost, at least for a few days, because his performance was well received. But I wonder how many minds he changed. One problem was that the debate, especially at the outset, probably made less wonky voters' eyes glaze over -- I was dial-switching after the debate and the first e-mail Diane Sawyer talked about receiving was from a viewer complaining that you needed a calculator to follow the debate at the outset! A Newsday blogger wrote, "First debate opens with overwhelming wonkiness." Daniel Gross at the Daily Beast said, "First Debate a Think-Tank Snoozer." In The New York Times, Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg wrote, "the 90-minute debate unfolded much like a seminar by a business consultant and a college professor." I imagine that the people who've been on the fence are precisely the kinds of people whose eyes glazed over at all this.

And Zandar has this gloss on another poll:

Yeah, he's citing a totally unscientific online poll -- but you'd imagine both sides would be trying to stuff the ballot box in online polls after the debate. I think Zandar might be on to something -- Romney seemed more reasonable than usual, but that's a very low bar. He still came off as highly aggressive. Moreover, I think he came off as a guy trying to win a debate, not as a guy trying to become president so he can help America. I wonder how many people's primary impression was that he won the debate as a contest rather than that he demonstrated a superior set of ideas.

So we'll see how this plays out.


Victor said...

I kept waiting for Obama to look at his watch – either to check how much time there was left in this farce, or to see if Jim Lehrer still had a pulse.

Obama was bored with the whole affair.
It’s almost like he expected the audience to grok that Mitt was lying through his teeth, without having to say anything to counter the endless tsunami of bullsh*t.

And Mitt had the madman’s glassy-eyed but focused glare and machine gun patter of a Wall Street boss who’d just snorted an 8-ball of coke and drank a bottle of tequila at midnight in his office and wanted to lecture about free markets to the over-night cleaning crew at his firm.

Steve M. said...

Your last paragraph is priceless. And completely on target.

Alatea said...

The good news is that if the right-wing PACs see Romney as winning - and thus now having a "real chance" they'll keep their money in the presidential race instead of moving it into Senate and Congressional races and dems will have a better chance of keeping the Senate and gaining ground in the House. I don't see this impacting the final result in the presidential race - as debates don't really have much impact in the long run.

Tom Hilton said...

Victor, what Steve M said.

And the constant smirking while the President was talking? Right-wing apparatchiks aside, who finds that appealing?

The real question now is whether the fact-checkers a) do their job, and b) that gets the play it deserves.

Rand Careaga said...

Obama seemed listless and bored, while Romney—well, Victor's impression can't be improved upon. It was not an inspiring performance on the part of the Prez, but Sullivan having fits on the fainting couch almost made it worthwhile.

There's something to be said for Alatea's observation about keeping the PAC money flowing toward R&R rather than downticket, as it might were the perception of Romney having irretrievably cratered to take hold among the malefactors of great wealth five weeks out. I've even seen speculation this morning that Obama subtly threw the fight with precisely this in mind, which looks a little implausibly eleventh-dimensional chess from here, but is nevertheless a cheering thought.

Rand Careaga said...

Oh, Victor...I certainly hope that you are legendary and prolific blog commenter "c u n d gulag" inexplicably cross-posting under another handle, because if you are not, then you are accepting compliments in borrowed finery.

Victor said...

Victor: aka, c u n d gulag.
Da's me!

And like I said at LG&M, don't tell anyone that's my real name.

The only way I can comment here with Steve's system with the e-mail requirement, is with my real name.

Rand Careaga said...

My deepest apologies, then.

Steve M. said...

I've even seen speculation this morning that Obama subtly threw the fight with precisely this in mind, which looks a little implausibly eleventh-dimensional chess from here, but is nevertheless a cheering thought.

What I could imagine is that Obama wanted to see which Romney would show up in Debate #1 so he could prepare accordingly for #2 and #3. Still doesn't explain why he couldn't adjust in mid-debate, but he's always been a planner rather than an improviser.

Never Ben Better said...

For what it's worth, here's a bit of cheering news from P.M.Carpenter's blog:

Here's the first look at that second look. MSNBC held a post-debate focus group of independents. Its members, overwhelmingly, believed Romney dominated the evening's debate. But get this: When asked if any were now supporting Romney, not one focus-grouper said yes. Not one.

Steve M. said...

There are similar signs of little to no movement here and at the end of this post. In the former link, yes, Romney won over quite a few Romney-leaning undecideds, but Obama didn't slip, and maybe there's a 15-point swing among the tiny sliver of remaining undecideds, which tells me that Romney maybe gained a point or less last night.

Kathy said...

Sununu's on TV saying Obama's lazy. Stay classy and keep on dog-whistling, John.

BH said...

I saw maybe the first half of the debate, and O did in fact seem relatively lifeless. A la Victor's description, Mitty was chock full of vim - and shamelessly misrepresented his stated positions. Even though I had very low veracity expectations of Mitty going in, I was still somewhat gobsmacked at just how brazenly mendacious he was; and it makes me wonder whether perhaps O was a bit taken aback too. I suspect that may have had something to do with his performance. But... O should have been ready for that from Mitty, the flippest flopper of recent times. I don't think this one debate will change the dynamics that much, but O can't continue to appear that flat in the next two or I'm afraid we'll be back in 50/50 territory with a swing state or 2 or 3 in peril.