Political Animal


October 16, 2012 11:19 PM Post-Debate Spin

By Ed Kilgore

While most conservative spinners are calling it a “draw,” the MSM CW is that Obama won, and certainly exceeded expectations. Lotta talk about Obama’s passion and effective counter-punching. Unlike first debate, there were potentially three “sound-bite moments”—(1) Mitt’s vehement misstatement about what Obama said in his Rose Garden remarks on Libya, (2) Obama’s success in talking about 47% in final answer to final question after Mitt indirectly brought it up, and (3) already the subject of great hilarity on Twitter, Mitt’s weird reference to reviewing “binders full of women” when making appointments in Massachusetts.

Romney’s successes, such as they were, were in relentlessly pounding in his “referendum message” on Obama’s economic record (lot of repetition, but that is how you pound a message in), and in taking advantage of every opportunity to mention his Massachusetts record. But Obama (and for that matter, the Real Person who asked Mitt to distinguish his policies from Bush’s) took a good deal of the shine off Moderate Mitt, undermining the thin credibility of Romney’s tax plan, tying him several times to his extremist party, and winning exchanges on contraception and immigration.

CBS flash poll of undecideds showed narrow Obama win: 37% Obama, 30% Romney, 33% tie. I’m guessing broader flash poll will show a lot more polarization, with Democratic “discouragement” probably all but vanishing. Notable first debate Chicken Little Andrew Sullivan is on MSNBC right now declaring himself “thrilled” at Obama’s performance.

As a confessed non-visual type, I can’t personally judge the “style points,” but aside from the aforementioned Obama feistiness, it seemed Romney came across more than once as fighting with Crowley (who did not, to her credit, back down against either candidate), and the whole exchange over Libya, including Obama’s visibly angry expression of being offended, seemed bad for Mitt, who accused the president of publicly lying without having his facts straight.

There will be more spin, of course, and that will likely influence public perceptions of what people thought they saw (probably in Obama’s favor), but for the most part we enter that twilight period when we try to figure out if Romney’s post-first-debate poll surge will end or even be reversed. But any way you slice it, the days of debate-related Democratic Panic should be over.

I’ll be back in the morning with more refined analysis and reporting of others’ reactions, but feel free to post your thoughts in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Joe Friday on October 16, 2012 11:22 PM:

    Even David Brooks declared Obama the CLEAR winner.

  • mudwall jackson on October 16, 2012 11:25 PM:

    in the language of spin, draw means 'my guy was crushed.'

  • max on October 16, 2012 11:28 PM:

    While most conservative spinners are calling it a “draw,” the MSM CW is that Obama won, and certainly exceeded expectations. Lotta talk about Obama’s passion and effective counter-punching.

    I saw somebody say (besides Joe here) Brooksie gave Obama the win, but otherwise it sounds like the usual automatic spin. (And yes! Wolf Blitzer says tie!)

    Unfortunately, I slept through it, although if he's going to be like this when I'm sacked out, I'm gonna sleep through the next one too.

    Once again, thanks for live-blogging it.

    ['Will our liberal elites buck up now?']

  • Varecia on October 16, 2012 11:32 PM:

    "...As a confessed non-visual type, I can’t personally judge the style points, but aside from the aforementioned Obama feistiness, it seemed Romney came across more than once as fighting with Crowley (who did not, to her credit, back down against either candidate),.."

    I beg to differ. I watched the clock run out and stop behind him as Romney was answering, and still he went on a good 30 seconds or more after the clock stopped. Crowley should have cut him off. And this was not the only time he went over time and she didn't stop him. As I wrote earlier, is there a moderator on the planet who has the balls to tell this guy to sit down and shut up?

    Candy Crowley

  • Th on October 16, 2012 11:33 PM:

    Watched on CNN so I could watch the response lines. For what it's worth, the women did not like Obama going after Romney on anything. Pretty weird. Obama scored well when he talked about his record or what he wanted to do but bombed any time he pivoted to attack.

  • Corbin Supak on October 16, 2012 11:34 PM:

    Thanks for your hard work - love the site. Get some rest.

  • Quaker in a Basement on October 16, 2012 11:34 PM:

    the whole exchange over Libya, including Obama’s visibly angry expression of being offended, seemed bad for Mitt, who accused the president of publicly lying without having his facts straight.

    This wasn't just a bobble, it was a full-on, flat-on-his-face blunder. Romney had managed to put his shameless posturing on 9/12 behind him. Tonight, he reminded the country that the attack on America was, to him, a political opportunity.

  • Hue and Cry on October 16, 2012 11:38 PM:

    Oh funny, Ed--Chicken Little Andrew--great call.
    He certainly spoke with hardy indication he was thrilled with the president's showing.

    Well done--fast work of Ed-- with great prose in these posts!!

    The president was robust, strapping, vigorous and--as grandma used to say--in fine fettle.

    You could see a look of panic and pandemonium in Mitt's eyes as if he was having a major internal crisis--
    as evidenced by his strong and laughable need to interrupt and take over, as if in the board room.

    Nothing is worse in public debate than not realizing how you are coming across. Repeatedly trying to suppress, squelch and overwhelm the moderator seemed a losing indulgence for the Mitt.

  • Sparko on October 16, 2012 11:41 PM:

    Lincoln: The Great Emancipator
    Reagan: The Great Communicator
    Romney: The Great Constipator.


  • Anonymous on October 16, 2012 11:42 PM:

    My gut observation

    When Obama started off the first question of the night with that same style of milquetoast TV advertising rerun "answer" that got him labeled the big loser in the first debate my heart sank a little. Oh boy, here we go again. Then my heart leapt as I watched the gloves come off in the next question and Obama delivered a well placed rhetorical jab. THEN I watched in amazement a short while later as Romney strode right over to O in a confrontational posture. WTF was Romney thinking? I'll put this negro boy in his place? I half expected him to unzip and ask for a dick measuring contest right there (unwise against a black man anyway). Obama not only stood his ground but kept hitting Romney in the rhetorical gut all night.

    Bottom line take away. Romney's just like that obnoxious used car salesman who's trying to intimidate and pressure you into some really bad deal with his smarmyness.

  • DJ on October 16, 2012 11:52 PM:

    I half expected him to unzip and ask for a dick measuring contest right there (unwise against a black man anyway).

    If I had said something racist like this, I'd want to remain anonymous, too.

  • Hue and Cry on October 17, 2012 12:05 AM:

    Mitt Romney came into the debate with a noticeably
    bad haircut, then President Obama gave him another one, plus a serious shave.

    Obama was precise and exacting and Mitt so thin-skinned and susceptible to the next big blow Obama had in store.

    Indeed there is a lack of respect for women that exudes from the Mittster--all those sneers and scowls. His wife seems to have the same elitist look of distaste (?)

    Mitt absolutely had his contemptuous face on, and it was not cool at all.

  • Shelly on October 17, 2012 12:09 AM:

    I don't know if any undecideds will care about this, but I was really impressed with his "buck stops here" line re: Libya. He could have so easily pinned it in Hillary, which she essentially invited him to do earlier today, but he didn't. Talk about Presidential character, wow! Can anyone imagine Romney doing this? Bush? Bill Clinton?

  • gone_west on October 17, 2012 12:24 AM:

    Wow. The loser of this debate wasn't Obama or Romney (except he did), but the American people. No Social Security question. No Medicare one. No abortion question. No Supreme Court litmus test question. Nothing about the role of the Senate/Congress in impeding/promoting economic growth and Obama policies. No question about the role of regulation. No questions about unions influence or lack of it in the workplace and in politics, especially if manufacturing jobs come back. No questions about diminishing PACs influence on elections. No questions about bailouts and handouts or about mortgage relief or of the Fed. No ObamaCare questions. Nothing about two wars. Nothing questioning about how hard/soft the landing will be when we fully wind down the wars. And so on.

  • thebewilderness on October 17, 2012 12:29 AM:

    I don't think Romneys idea that women getting married before they have babies is the solution to gun violence went over all that well. KWIM?

  • exlibra on October 17, 2012 12:54 AM:

    I have a friend who's what we "down heah South" call a "yellow dog Democrat". She was a strong Hillary supporter, and voted for Obama only because of her YDD credentials. After the first debate, she wrote me: "Hilary would have never allowed herself to be steamrolled like this". But, after tonight, she wrote: "Rock 'em! Sock 'em! Obama!"

    If he's won her, I think he's won all Dems, including the "disenchanted" ones. Romney sucked through a binder full of women and a "misreported" Rose Garden statement. And his monotonous repetition of the few talking points he managed to memorize didn't seem to have as much impact tonight as it had the last time, possibly because, *this time*, all his talking points were rebutted, instantly (once by Sweet Candy herself. Priceless)

  • James M on October 17, 2012 1:04 AM:

    As much as I hate fringe theories, I think you can put me in some version of the 'rope a dope' camp concerning the 1st debate. BO is definitely a long game player (agonizingly so in some cases) and I think he is pacing himself through the last month. If there is any positive movement toward BO after the debate Mr. Romney is once again toast.

    As an aside, it seems that Mr. Romney was so convinced that this election would completely turn on the economy that he never made any real effort to develop any foreign policy chops.

  • Hue and Cry on October 17, 2012 1:30 AM:

    Enjoyed the posts and comments--now I guess I'm off to wash some already clean pots and pans---------------->

  • CRA on October 17, 2012 1:54 AM:

    Wingnut logic now states that on 9/11, the proverbial buck did not stop on Bush’s desk, but that Obama somehow failed to protect our diplomats in Libya.

    “Opportunist” is too mild a word for Romney. He is a braying, grinning hyena tearing at the still-warm corpses of our nation’s dead. Those who join his pack are lower still.

    Romney’s confident manner and constant smile are meant to convey the inner glow of a successful and even holy man. Instead we see a dead grifter’s soulless rictus reanimated to smirk and lie. Romney radiates the unnatural vitality of a ghoul: one who hastens forth to gobble unclean nourishments — an apt description of his business practices as well as his politics.

  • oldngrumpy on October 17, 2012 2:34 AM:

    Republicans have become so used to having the concerted wind of the right wing echo chamber at their back that they falsely assume they can make any statement that works for their goal and get by with it. The questions from the voters assembled should have shaken them from that comfort zone tonight.

    They can talk about "librul" media all they want, but the fact is that there is no progressive media machine to come anywhere close to matching what the GOP has assembled. This has come to be a problem for them, because the less than stellar intellects they run for office are now regular consumers of the message and regularly quote the most absurd of it's babblings.

    Nowhere do we see this more aptly demonstrated than with women's issues. Considering that they are 51% of the population, one would think that candidates would be more inclined toward finding what women want from society, and making some effort to securing it. I believe that an unknown, but considerable, factor in this election may be the registered Republican women who go to the privacy of the booth and mark all boxes for Dems. If they have daughters, or are in the workplace, this may well be an election changer.

  • Flashy on October 17, 2012 6:00 AM:

    I really hope the Obama campaign uses Mitt's answer about the differences (sic) between Bush and Romney, you know, how Romney cares more about oil than Bush and how Romney will push for more trade in Latin America...wow, the differences are striking...

  • kd bart on October 17, 2012 7:09 AM:

    One other moment from the debate that didn't get commented on enough that I'm sure will irritate quite a few people. It's when Mitt sputtered out the following:

    You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking."

    The Real Mitt was revealed there. The Mitt who see each and everyone, including the President, as no more than just The Help. You were almost expecting him to throw in a "boy" at the end of that sentence.

  • SimonPaul on October 17, 2012 8:05 AM:

    "Romney gets his dick in a binder."


  • HelpThe99ers on October 17, 2012 9:07 AM:

    I'd agree with kr bart's point: I was taken aback by the "you'll get your chance" line.

    For a moment, I though Romney was chiding "the help."

    I thought it was disdainful and disrespectful. That was the Mitt who talked dismissively about the 47% - not a man who wants to earn their votes.

    One other point: the President did ask the audience for their votes. I don't recall Romney doing the same.

  • low-tech cyclist on October 17, 2012 9:14 AM:

    While most conservative spinners are calling it a “draw,”

    Anyone else reminded of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

  • Big tuna on October 17, 2012 9:35 AM:

    The binders full of women thing has gone viral. I did not watch the whole thing.... There was a baseball game last night, after all, but the clips I saw sure show Willard,s true colors... A sanctimonious, condescending plutocrat.

    He is dismissive of women; disrespected the president; and his answers are a series of talking points that do not form a coherent whole. The Guardian has a very good critique of the binders full of women line. He allegedly states support for various "women's" centric issues, but then, he, and his party, oppose planned parenthood; have Neanderthals like Todd akin running for senate, etc, all of which represent a series of very anti women, hell, anti people, policies. Listening to a Mormon man talk about contreception .... That is priceless.

    Go tigers.

  • beejeez on October 18, 2012 10:00 AM:

    I can't believe anyone but a GOP spin doctor could score this bout as a narrow victory, let alone a stop-the-bleeding tie. It was a systematic takedown in which Romney landed only a couple jabs that Obama even felt. If it were a boxing match, Candy would have stopped it in the sixth round, and I say this conceding that Romney was clearly the better prepared fighter the first time around.

    I think sometime we're going to learn why the president was so far off his game in the first debate. I suspect it was a health issue or possibly even the Turkey-Syria distraction. I admire him for not making any excuses directly or through a spokesperson. I would have done so in a heartbeat, and it probably would have backfired.

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