The Etch-A-Sketch Debate: Blog Reax III


Kilgore wishes Obama had taken more shots at Romney:

I lost count of the missed opportunities for Obama last night, and I realize a lot of this represents 20/20 hindsight. But if Obama’s goal coming in had been to expose Romney’s dishonesty, he sure passed up some ripe targets. Why didn’t he ask (as virtually everyone expected him to do) Romney to distinguish his economic policies from Bush’s? Why didn’t he mention the Ryan Budget, crafted by Romney’s running-mate, and representing a vast, extremist policy agenda that Mitt has promised to implement as quickly as possible? At a minimum, when Romney was doing his cringe-inducing number near the end about how desperately he wants to sit down and reason with Democrats (in contrast to Obama’s partisanship, no less!), why not challenge him to promise on the spot that he’d refuse to let his party cram through the Ryan Budget on a party-line vote, which is precisely what it intends to do?

Frum gives another example:

As the more aggressive debater on the stage, Romney opened himself up to a number of devastating counterpunches. Obama was never nimble enough to take advantage of them. Maybe the most potentially lethal occurred during a debate over Obama’s claim that there existed tax deductions to move American jobs overseas – a claim that (with a view to blue-collar Midwestern voters) Obama repeated at least twice. After one of those claims, Romney countered that in many years in business, he’d never noticed such a deduction in the tax code. Then he said, “Maybe I need a better accountant.” That was the Dan Quayle moment of this debate. Reply: “Governor, your accountant is excellent. He’s got you paying a lower tax rate than the White House cleaning staff!”

Zeke Miller expects Obama will come out swinging at the next debate:

President Barack Obama is nothing if not competitive — and he just got beat in front of 50 million people. The president will go back to debate camp, and bring the knives to the next debate, because he has no choice. Another performance like this one would further undercut the advantage that comes with being an incumbent, and close the gap in stature between the two men —something Obama can't afford.

Beinart notes how Romney minimized the policy differences he has with the president:

Romney did what Michael Dukakis tried to do in 1988: He made the race less about ideology than about competence. He jettisoned almost everything about the Republican Party’s economic agenda that Americans don’t like and essentially told Americans: There’s no big philosophical disagreement here. The president just hasn’t gotten results for the country so why not give me a try. He succeeded into turning the race from an ideological choice back into a referendum on what kind of job Obama has done.

Dreher thought Obama looked tired:

[T]he overall impression I took away from this debate is that Obama is too worn out to do this job for four more years, but Romney is ready to hit the ground running. Mind you, it would be imprudent, to say the very least, to make a decision based on a single debate, and besides, there are policy differences between the two men. Still, I bet there are some voters who had reluctantly decided for Obama who will now rethink that based on the performance last night — simply because Obama’s logy performance gave the impression that he’s a spent force.

Ramesh Ponnuru was impressed by Romney:

Romney made the most focused appeal to middle-class voters on the basis of how his agenda would help them — on energy, on health care, on jobs — that he ever has. It was the first time a lot of Americans have seen him showing the impressive command of facts and figures that journalistic profiles of his career always mention. On several occasions, Romney managed to accuse Obama of lying without seeming mean or whiny.

So was Peter Lawler:

This is, as far as I'm concerned, the first time a Republican presidential candidate decisively won a debate according to the objective standards by which any expert would judge a debate. The last and only other time a Republican might have won by any such standard was Reagan over Carter in 1980. In that case, the victory, if there was one, wasn't overwhelming. And it was more that Carter stumbled than Reagan was all that impressive.

Ezra Klein wonders how Romney would govern:

Obama aside, the question the debates raised is which Romney voters will be choosing if they mark his name on the ballot. The Romney who endorsed the House Republican budget and chose its author as his running mate? Or the Romney who seemed to have no use for the Ryan budget and barely mentioned his running mate? The Romney who wants to cut $7 trillion from the budget over the next decade? Or the Romney who won’t name any spending cuts beyond PBS? The Romney who says he wants to give every state the opportunity to do what Massachusetts did in health care, which would mean handing over quite a bit in federal funding to fund those efforts, just as the federal government funded Massachusetts’ efforts? Or the Romney whose health-care plan spans less than 400 words and includes no plausible mechanisms by which other states could copy Massachusetts’ success? The Romney who talks movingly of bipartisan compromise? Or the Romney who says he wouldn’t accept a $1 in tax increases even if paired with $10 in spending cuts?

Chait counts Romney's many lies:

Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.

And Bouie keeps confident:

Romney gave a great performance, but there was nothing in his rhetoric that would convince an Obama voter to switch sides. By next week, polling will catch up with events and we’ll have a sense of how voters reacted to the first presidential debate. My guess? The polls will show little or no change. To borrow from political scientists Robert Erikson and Christopher Weizen, “the best prediction from the debates is the initial verdict before the debates.” At the end of the month, odds are good that Obama will be where he was at the beginning of the month—ahead.

(Denver Post front page from Buzzfeed's collection of swing-state newspaper pages.)