Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Everyone knows that Mitt Romney won one of the three presidential debates and Barack Obama won two -- and that Obama won last night's debate decisively. Everyone knows that Romney won the debate he won because he phonied up his positions on any number of issues. Everyone knows that Romney last night drowned in flop sweat while repeating, "Me too! Me too!"

So who won "the debate season"? Romney, of course. Joe Scarborough: "Romney Wins Debate Season." Ron Fournier: "Obama Wins Third Debate but Romney Wins Debate Season." Rich Lowry at National Review: "A Successful Debate Season for Romney." Gosh, if I didn't know better, I'd think the right-wing journalists and the GOP pol-turned-"centrist"-pundit coordinated that message -- which the rest of the media seems to be accepting mostly uncritically.

BuzzFeed's Ben Smith knows what's going on:
Press Cheers Romney's Recovery

...Mitt Romney['s] revival at the debate in Denver less than three weeks ago, and the Republican's, subsequent strong run have been a gift to a press corps that was deeply bored by the 2012 presidential campaign, and that was, some acknowledged Monday, frankly rooting for Romney to get back on his feet. It's a force as powerful as earlier press infatuations -- with the charm of George W. Bush in 2000, with the power of the 2008 narrative of Barack Obama's victory.

"The media is always rooting for drama," said National Review political writer Robert Costa. "Romney's resurgence after Denver made them so happy that this is really a race."

"With Romney closing the gap after Denver, it is a more interesting race because it's a real contest," said Chicago Sun-Times's Lynn Sweet, a figure on the 2008 Obama campaign trail. "The press likes a real horserace."

Democrats in Boca, in fact, had begun complaining already about what they see as a cheerleading tone in the coverage of Romney's clawing his way back into the contest.

"I don't know how else you explain some of the coverage," lamented a senior Democratic Party official. "A poll that shows Romney up one point is Romney leading race. A poll that shows Obama up one is race tied."
What the press wants is new, new, new. Competent, likable, possibly electable Romney is, if not a new iPhone, then at least Windows 8. Great -- that's how we're choosing a president.

(You'll say that Obama beat Hillary Clinton and John McCain in '08 by taking advantage of this. But Obama also inspired genuine grassroots excitement in the primaries, while showing true mastery of the campaign process. And the public agreed that he was a better, steadier candidate than McCain, and better in every debate. There was no rewriting of the rules to say, "We in the media prefer the guy who lost this debate, so we declare that this debate didn't matter.")

Look, it's not just the press's fault. Obama and Biden worked hard to better Obama's performance in Debate #1, but the campaign never mastered post-debate spin. That allowed the story of the VP debate to be Biden's personality, the second presidential debate to be described as a mutual angerfest rather than Romney's loss, and last night's rout of Romney to be, well, instantly written out of the history of this campaign, to judge from what I'm seeing right now.

Obama could still win this. But he has two opponents to beat.


UPDATE: I realize I'm not keeping up with the zeitgeist: Team Romney is already declaring victory, and Politici is buying the spin and has already called the race for Mitt. Jonathan Chait explains in detail why this is largely bluster.

ALSO SEE: Michael Tomasky on how the Republicans are trying to create their own reality by declaring Romney the winner.


Victor said...

Well, it's hardly surprising that our millionaire punTWITS want to boost the chances of the candidate who wants to cut their taxes, is it?

Give me the ink-stained wretches of old, rather than these pampered, manicured, and made-up beauty pageant runners-up.

ploeg said...

Romney was able to better his odds of winning from 7 to 1 before the first debate (according to Nate Silver) to around 2 to 1 now, and Obama's subsequent performances probably aren't going to swing the odds back that much, so Romney actually did OK. The problem for Romney is that there's two weeks left, people are early voting, and Romney would have to do something extraordinary to get his odds to even money.

: smintheus :: said...

Romney looked so weak last night that the pundits are desperately eager to distract attention from what he actually said. It must have taken monumental effort on their part to refrain from pointing out the resemblance to Dick Nixon in 1960.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Romney erased Obama's lead with the first debate and Obama still hasn't got it back, despite winning the last two and despite Biden beating Ryan.

Gallup and Rasmussen show Romney ahead, in fact.

So, yeah, R appears to have won the "debate season" and it may well be that O lost the election with that very first debate at which he positively sucked.

We'll see.

Unknown said...

Well, dating back at least to 2000, when they needed to drag GWB over the finish line, Our Media Stars have adopted the non-zero-sum school of political debate scoring, and last night's debate and the VP smackdown were prime examples: "Well, Obama/Biden were more informed, more forceful and more truthful. But Romney/Ryan did what they needed to do - look presidential and act like they knew what they were talking about, which is good enough for morons."

BH said...

I'll worry about Gallup & Rasmussen when Nate Silver says to, & not before. In fact, I don't much care (with only 2 weeks left) what any national poll says. Mitty may have "won the debate season", but that's mostly showbiz. The season I care about is the period of time between poll-closing and the release of results in Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin & Florida. I still feel pretty confident in the final outcome - it won't be pretty, & it'll be far closer than it should be, but absent a major detonation I think O gets re-elected.

Oh but... Trump tomorrow! Gee, I forgot that...

Knight of Nothing said...

Measured in terms of intellectual sparring, I'd actually put the Obama/Biden ticket at a perfect 4 for 4. But I'm kinda with Philo and ploeg here: if by "win," one means "improved one's standings," yeah, Romney did win - and big, judging by the shift in Silver's odds over at 538. And when I think about what that reveals about the voting public, I weep.