The Town-Hall Debate: Blog Reax

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 16 2012 @ 11:52pm

Will Wilkinson gives Obama the win:

On points, I’d score it a very close victory for Mr Obama. Mr Romney’s enumeration of Mr Obama’s failures and unmet promises toward the middle of the evening was powerful, and made up for some earlier, smaller lost exchanges. Rhetorically, however, it was a decisive victory, if not quite a drubbing, in Mr Obama’s favour. The turning point of the evening was clearly the exchange on Benghazi. The subject ought to have scored points for Mr Romney, but he straight up muffed it by putting forth a silly falsehood, while Mr Obama’s indignation seemed a display of admirable spine rather than the bit of face-saving bluff it was. After that point, Mr Romney seemed slightly off his game, which allowed Mr Obama easily to snag the campaign-saving win he so desperately needed.

How Pareene describes the pivotal moment:

Obama clearly prepared for his Libya response. Romney makes a dumb mistake: Obama says he spoke in the Rose Garden after the attack and called it an act of terror. Romney says “no you didn’t.” Obama says “get the transcript.” Crowley says “he did.” THE AUDIENCE APPLAUDS CROWLEY LIVE FACT-CHECKING ROMNEY. Like, twice. They applaud twice. Romney stutters through the rest of his response, and it doesn’t matter what he says: He just got fucking destroyed. By the audience, basically.

Larison’s take on the Libya exchange:

Romney has no foreign policy experience, and tonight everyone clearly saw that. He is superficially conversant with foreign policy issues, but hasn’t taken the time to learn enough about them to speak about them effectively or persuasively. Romney’s bad judgment and his lack of preparation on this front were on display, and it has probably become clear to a much wider audience that Romney lacks important qualifications for the Presidency.

Allahpundit looks forward to the next debate:

The good news? Mitt gets another crack at the Libya attack in the next debate, which will focus exclusively on foreign policy. He’ll be very well prepared, rest assured. And since most of the media’s coverage tomorrow will focus on the Libya exchange tonight, that issue will continue to get plenty of coverage for the rest of the week. I can live with that.

Matthew Dickinson suspects “the Obama supporters are happy”:

Their guy came up off the mat and fought at least to a draw, if not an outright win on points.  (Time for the sports analogies).  I thought Mitt scored on the economic issues that favored him, but he made more obvious errors (the Libya exchange) and too often came across as too focused on rules, and scoring debating points.  Obama parried as well as he could on the economic issues, but it’s generally not a winning area for him.  But he was more aggressive and did a better job on keeping Romney on the defensive in terms of explaining himself.  And when he could wrap himself in the commander-in-chief role, he was able to bring some passion and righteous indignation to the debate.

TNC praises Obama’s performance:

One thing that should be revisited is the notion that Obama isn’t a very good debater. That was a really solid win against an opponent who was tough–up until Libya, where Romney promptly went all Vinny Testaverde and threw a pick six. That was big, but Obama was winning before the Libya question.

Goddard believes that “Obama won the debate decisively”:

Romney doesn’t do testy well. He made a big mistake trying to roll over the moderator. He got away with it in the first debate but he looked mean tonight. His obsession with the rules also came off as petty.

Fallows’s verdict:

Obama was as strong tonight as he was weak the first time.

McArdle bets both sides will claim victory:

President has staunched the bleeding, but didn’t blow anything away. Liberals will loudly proclaim that he won, trying to work the day after story. Conservatives will do the same for their guy.

On cue, Quin Hillyer declares Romney the winner:

The Chris Matthewses of the world will say Obama won this debate. Their headlines were written before the debate even started. But they are wrong. Romney didn’t dominate this one, but he did win. Obama certainly didn’t change the momentum back in his own favor. Romney kept his campaign moving in the right direction tonight. He was strong and solid, especially with his closing answer.

Michael Graham at NRO differs:

Obama didn’t deliver a “Romney first debate” performance, and Romney didn’t have an “Obama first debate” meltdown. But Obama gets the win. 

Justin Green also concedes that Obama won:

Calling this debate for the President. Certainly a stronger performance on his end, although the bar wasn’t exactly high. Sullivan can finally quit panicking.

Kevin Drum grades both candidates:

Oddly enough, I think both candidates did better tonight than two weeks ago. Obama was, obviously, way better. I’d give him an A-. But Romney was better too. I’d probably give him a good B, maybe even a B+ if I were feeling generous. I don’t know how much the first debate really affected the polls, but if it did, this one ought to correct at least some of the damage.

Joe Klein thought both candidates had strong moments:

Most political debates are like this. There aren’t very many clean wins or losses. The candidates work on the audiences they’ve targeted–women for Obama; small business for Romney–and few minds are changed. The number of minds that are changeable at this point in this race is so miniscule that I can’t guess which candidate did better at influencing the truly undecided–which is why I can’t say who won. And I do think the bickering hurt both candidates, especially among women (and therefore may have hurt Obama more–although the President’s substantive answers on questions affecting women were much stronger than Romney’s).

Stanley Kurtz doubts the polls will move much:

The question is, regardless of who you thought might have edged out a victory, will Obama’s solid performance change the dynamic of the race coming out of the first debate.  It will, in the sense of preventing the crash that would have come from two poor performances in a row for the president.  Beyond that, however, I don’t think this debate will change all that much.

James Joyner is also skeptical that Obama will get a bounce:

Overall, even if the debate is a draw, it’s a minor win for Obama simply because it stops the bleeding from Round 1. I don’t imagine it’ll result in much of a bounce in the polls, though.

Josh Marshall’s view:

No one controls an election. At best it’s a high stakes run over white water rapids where one candidate has more luck and skill than the other. You can’t know the effect of a debate or a good performance or a bad one. And certainly we know that campaigns like life are never fair. What a candidate needs to do — what his or her supporters need them to do — is make the whole case, hit every point, not think of any great rejoinder three hours later when you’re breathing your teeth before bed. Obama had that night. And whatever it accomplishes for him and his campaign, his supporters desperately needed him to have that night.

And Alex Altman looks at the insta-polling:

It’s unclear how much the debate will reshape a tight race with very few undecided voters. In an instant CBS News poll of uncommitted voters, 37% of respondents said Obama won the night, with 30% backing Romney and one-third characterizing the skirmish as a tie. For Obama, however, it was a performance brimming with the kind of fiery rhetoric his supporters were craving. The President has described himself in the past as a “fourth quarter player.” In crunch time of his last campaign, he sank a very big shot Tuesday night.