Further reflections on the first presidential debate, a look ahead to the vice presidential debate
By Dave Andrusko
We won’t know, according to the experts, until this weekend what “bump” (increase in support) pro-life Mitt Romney received for drubbing (the near-universal consensus) pro-abortion President Barack Obama in the first of three presidential debate. A Democratic operative was on Fox News the other night and claimed (a) debates don’t mean a thing and (b) Romney’s numbers would increase by a ludicrously large figure. The idea, yet again, was to set the bar so high Romney would “fail.”
Spin aside what we know initially is encouraging. According to Rasmussen, Romney is down only a point in Ohio and up a point in Virginia, two “swing states.” Late in the day, Rasmussen reported that Romney was up two in Florida. Last month he was down two.
Ed Morrissey wrote today that the polling firm We Ask America “surveyed 1,200 likely voters in three key swing states [Ohio, Florida, and Virginia], and found Romney slightly ahead in all three.”
But, again, these numbers have bounced around within a limited range for months and so the only conclusion to draw is that Romney certainly didn’t hurt himself with a devastatingly effective performance in Denver but may benefit more than we could expect right now.
This is the last National Right to Life News Today story for the week, so let me conclude with some reflections on what the debate told us.
The initial response of everybody who is anybody—particularly many of even the most sycophantic reporters and columnists—was to bash President Obama unmercifully. However, as we predicted Wednesday, it took just one more day to turn reality on its head.
Now we are told the President’s abysmal performance was not because he looked asleep, evasive, and largely clueless, but because he nobly took the high road—laying out an honest narrative—while that rascally Romney was lying like it was going out of style. So much for taking defeat like a man.
Some of the “mainstream press” used the occasion of Obama’s humiliation to say “we told you so.” You don’t do press conferences—you spend your time on “The View” and “The David Letterman Show”—and why should Obama be surprised he did so poorly against a man who was clearly prepared. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank summarized their lament:
“For the past four years, he has worked assiduously to avoid being questioned, maintaining a regal detachment from the media and other sources of dissent and skeptical inquiry… This insularity led directly to the Denver debacle: Obama was out of practice and unprepared to be challenged.”
Which, of course, is to miss the whole point. President Obama doesn’t do dissent or invite skepticism.
Others, like the National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein, were more astute. With (to be polite) a thin record to run on, the President’s election machinery devotes 99% of its energy to demonizing Mr. Romney. Brownstein wrote
“But the 90-minute expanse of Wednesday night’s debate proved too long a stretch for Obama to keep the focus on Romney. And when the spotlight shifted back to the president—either his record or his plans—he often seemed diffuse, if not listless. As one undecided woman in a Las Vegas focus group of ‘Walmart moms’ put it, the president seemed ‘defeated, a little bit.’”
After alluding to a string of problems Romney has experienced, Brownstein observes
“But they have obscured the parallel reality that Obama is seeking reelection with elevated unemployment rates, low levels of growth, a massive federal deficit, and an approval rating that, while getting better, rarely peeks above 50 percent. This debate ensures that the campaign discussion, after weeks of being focused on Romney’s troubles, will now also highlight Obama’s weaknesses, and that itself is an important victory for Romney. One of those vulnerabilities is Obama’s inability so far to enlighten voters about his second-term agenda.”
This coming week is the debate between pro-life Rep. Paul Ryan and pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden. Ironically, the “expectations” game is reversed. Because Biden is an endless source of comments that Obama could not possibly want him to utter out loud, we are supposed to believe he will be easy pickings for Ryan, whose mind is as sharp as Biden’s is sloppy.
But debates are absolutely unpredictable; you just can’t know in advance. Well, that’s not completely true, you can know one thing in advance.
No matter the actual content of the debate—Ryan could torch Biden– Biden will be declared the winner, both because of the bogus expectations game AND because the mainstream media, which so loves President Obama, will not tolerate a second consecutive defeat.
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