Winners and Losers in the Second Presidential Debate

Posted at: 10/17/2012 6:27 AM
By: Dr. Timothy Kneeland -- Political Blogger

The clear winner in last night’s Presidential Debate was President Barack Obama.  President Obama was expected to -- and did do much better -- in this debate.  Obama won both because of his own performance,  which was for the first 15 minutes or so overly aggressive but later became more serious while remaining assertive, and due to the poor performance by Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney was also assertive, even belligerent, in this face-to-face contest held in a Town Hall format.  Yet, Romney failed on more than one occasion to keep his ideas sharp and to the point.  His responses sometimes lacked clarity, especially his closing comments which were disjointed.  In addition, unlike President Obama who used every advantage given to attack the Republican challenger, Romney failed in his few attempts to press the President on problems in the administration such as the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya and the problems in the so-called Fast and Furious program under the Department of Justice.   Furthermore, he whined a little about not getting enough time – not presidential. Some would say Romney’s performance was a draw, but I would rate him with a “D”.

To be fair to Romney the questions asked were advantageous to the incumbent. The audience while undecided was clearly not neutral and at one point burst out in applause for a comment by the President.   This might have rattled Romney some but the key moment against Romney came when Candy Crowley, the moderator, abandoned her neutral stance to correct Mitt Romney on his assertion that the President did not call the Libyan attack terrorism for days after the event.  She cited a Rose Garden comment by the President in which he called the attack terrorism.  After this encounter Romney was visibly shaken and it took him nearly 15 minutes to recover.  The audience would not know that Romney was in fact correct that the President did not call the attack terrorism but an “act of terror” a distinction with a difference.  

There were two clear losers:  The undecided voters who saw more partisan bickering and less substance than in the first debate; and the Clock --- ignored throughout the debate and invoked only when convenient and this was detrimental to those who wanted to ask the candidates questions.

In my next blog I will return to the subject of local elections.