Political Animal


October 17, 2012 9:25 AM Hofstra Debate Conclusions

By Ed Kilgore

So reactions to the second presidential candidates’ debate didn’t much change as they marinated overnight. The CW take remains an Obama win and a badly needed reversal of First Debate impressions. Conservatives continue to alternate between insisting the two candidates did equally well and minimizing the impact of this debate as compared to the first. Snap polls of both undecideds and all voters continue to show a modest Obama edge. And for the most part, the chattering classes thought the debate was a better show overall, in part because of all the clash but also because a much broader range of issues came up. To put it another way, the Real People in this debate posed significantly better questions than did Jim Lehrer in Denver.

Given the extremely narrow nature of Romney’s foreign policy critique of Obama last night and throughout the campaign, you do have to wonder what the final debate next week will be like. Will Romney continue to conduct an inquisition of exactly what Obama said when on the Libya killings, treating the incident as a sort of domestic version of Fast & Furious, a key to the Vast Liberal Conspiracy? Or will he insist on turning every question into a fresh opportunity for Sinophobia, based on his campaign’s apparent belief that the states of Ohio and Virginia and ultimately the election will be determined by people who live in coal-producing towns who really hate China? Hard to say, though as of the second debate the Romney pitch seems oddly divided between this sort of micro-messaging on the one hand, and numbing repetition of Mitt’s latest Obama’s Failures litany aimed at voters open to the “economic referendum” appeal.

Meanwhile, it should be clear to everyone that Moderate Mitt took a beating last night, and that Obama did as much as he’s ever going to do in laying out a second-term agenda. So voters who have mentally “fired” Obama for poor performance have fresh things to think about in deciding if Romney has crossed the threshold of acceptability, and those just looking for signs that Obama wasn’t terminally burning out got some significant reassurance. In general, “base” voters on both sides should feel reassured, and it’s very likely the race will stay close enough that long-simmering efforts to bring partisans to November 6 in a fear-and-hate-frenzy will come to fruition.

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.


  • Ron Byers on October 17, 2012 9:37 AM:

    An awful lot of talk about last night, but Obama did better than fine. Where was he the first debate?

    Am I the only one who noticed Romney said he would take capital gains to zero. Does that mean Romney's effective tax rate will go to just above zero?

  • stormskies on October 17, 2012 9:41 AM:

    Obama destroyed buffoon, pathological liar, and the corporate automaton called Romney. It's fucking fascinating to watch parts of the corporate media who ejaculated on themselves declaring Romney the 'winner' of the last debate even though he lied 27 times in 38 minutes.

    And many of those same ejaculating corporate props called 'pundits' could hardly bring themselves to accept/ acknowledge that Obama cleared the deck with Romney last night. Case in point: the sniveling response by the corporate prop called Wolf Blizter: "It was tie".

    Sure sniveling one, sure ........

  • T2 on October 17, 2012 9:42 AM:

    I realized, after fuming a bit on Obama's lack of response to all Romney lies and bad policy, that Mitt Romney is simply too target-rich to deal with,i.e. each question/answer provides so many refutable points that it is simply impossible to list them all in a restricted time period. Obama probably hit as many as anyone could.
    I did feel he missed a great opportunity to tie Romney's policies tightly to George W. Bush's disaster of a presidency. The question was a great one, and Romney's response was on the one hand a pretty brutal beat down of his own Party's recent president and his policies, and on the other hand a pretty slick weasel out of admitting he'd do the same, policy-wise. Obama should have tied Bush and Romney together more effectively.

    My other take away from the post-debate polling is how quickly the women voters have abandoned Obama and the Democratic policy that has stood up for them over the decades. What gives with that? Obama probably can't win if he gets less than 50% women votes. What gives, ladies?

  • Anonymous on October 17, 2012 9:44 AM:

    I don't know if there base was all that happy. The guys here always suffer from Cognitive dissonance when Obama is on. They are all dead silent here today. They didn't see the dumb negro they expected after the last debate. Btw, anyone who doesn't think OBs main problem isn't his race does work among enough right wing freaks.

  • Robert on October 17, 2012 9:46 AM:

    Now we have to worry about the voting machines being on Mitt's side...If Mitt can't lie his way into the White House then his buddies at Diebold and others will be working overtime to see what they can do...then there is the Supreme Court...and then there will be the appeals...and...and...and...President Obama just can't win for losing...what a country.

  • Al on October 17, 2012 9:50 AM:

    It's always entertaining reading the comment section of this site and seeing all the liberal spinmeister wannabes at work.

    Romney was facing a hostile hand-picked crowd and a partisan liberal moderator in a liberal state. His performance was heroic.

  • max on October 17, 2012 9:57 AM:

    Hard to say, though as of the second debate the Romney pitch seems oddly divided between this sort of micro-messaging on the one hand, and numbing repetition of Mitt’s latest Obama’s Failures litany aimed at voters open to the “economic referendum” appeal.

    The micropitch is to shift people who wouldn't vote Romney otherwise, presumably Dems. The moderate thing is to provide cover for learners who might not like the R base to support the the tax cuts/borrow and spend agenda (that would be our Blue dog friend types). The rest of it is simply to avoid providing the press with the evidence of what they want to do while amping up the South and the rural areas.

    I assume here that next week will feature repeated use of the word 'strong' without providing any guidance on whom we're going to bomb now. There's no moderate cover here, since Obama has all those bases covered solidly, so it's all right-wind bushwa all the time. (They seem to be very confident about their foreign policy chops, which is hilarious.)

    That said, Bob Schieffer will be a fairly terrible mod, I expect. The concern trolling should be epic from here on out.

    ['Death to the Ayatollahs and brown people everywhere should be on the menu.']

  • SYSPROG on October 17, 2012 10:01 AM:

    I don't know T2 what gives with the 'ladies'...the quote of the night that made me crazy was "But number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible." " Romney is a condescending prick that did NOT set up 'binders of women'...he was GIVEN that by women's groups that demanded equal consideration. Obama's best was 'contraception IS economic'...

  • hedda Peraz on October 17, 2012 10:02 AM:

    "the Real People in this debate posed significantly better questions than did Jim Lehrer"

    Oh, Ed, that's adorable! Those weren't "real people", any more than the questions were pertinent today. They could have been gleaned from a debate 4-8-12 years ago. One notch above, "What's your favorite color?"

    85 questions written down, a handful picked by the moderator. It was an exercise of who could remember their talking points and get them out in 90 seconds. Kabuki has come to America!

  • Solid Sid on October 17, 2012 10:03 AM:

    Romney, the bully, thought all he had to do was show up and his clear "force of his personality " would win the day for him. He did not know how to react when the "patsy" did not rollover and/or run away.

    The "I am smarter than you because I am" Romney personna was out in full force last night. The "I am the CEO" and my thoughts and words should never be challenged that makes most people skin crawl was there last night in the final 30 minutes.

    The 3rd debate should be a romp for the President. I am confident that Obama will prepare well and look even more Presidential at the next one. The screeching and crying you will hear in the next 48 to 72 hours will be the Republicans saying "the sky's not falling..the sky's not falling as they look for cover and put their hands over their heads to protect themselves cause they know the sky is falling."

  • berttheclock on October 17, 2012 10:05 AM:

    Mitt keeps saying how tough he will be on China. However, I see he, convienently, leaves out any criticism of China helping to put Solyndra out of business by dumping Chinese solar panels on the market. He, also, failed to state the US Dept of Commerce has just finalized tariffs against the Chinese companies for their dumping methods. Solyndra has just filed an $1.5 B law suit against those companies. But, all Mitt and the Repubs can do is blast Obama for wasting money on Solyndra.

  • del on October 17, 2012 10:08 AM:

    Although there will be Romney supporters who try to say the crowd was hostile, which I don't know how they came to that conclusion since the crowd did not react, he was in shambles and repeated the same talking points over and over. Mitt thought he could control this debate and walk over everyone like he did the last time and his rudeness even extended to the audience as he did not answer their questions. At one point, the moderator tried to get him back to the question and Romney stated let's not. He showed his true self, that he is the entitled one who only has to respond the way he wishes. They are still trying to spin it that he was good and answered questions. Once again, they are going on performance instead of what was actually said.

  • Kathryn on October 17, 2012 10:09 AM:

    @Sysprog.......also phrasing is severely fifties and I quote "if you're going to have women in the workforce", Mitt and Ann are like a sitcom couple from when I was a kid (in the fifties) only a lot richer and way more cynical.

  • Anonymous on October 17, 2012 10:11 AM:

    I dunno Ed. The puditocracy and the purveyors of CW are probably too close to it all, and are too damaged by living in the beltway [and not wanting to call things straight for fear of losinig their party invites].

    From where I sit, (and admittedly, I am very sensitive to the socio-cultural-religio fabric of the world of Willard, in that I deal with this subtype of male every day), but I found in the clips I see that Willard Romney is a sanctimonoius, condescending, callous, bullying, disrespectful,misogynistic, non intellectual, thin-skinned asshole.
    Imagine this guy in a delicate diplomatic situation. - Well, that might be too harsh a nightmare.

    The CW might also want to be aware that there are other strings of thought out here. One has to think that if a facebook page goes from 0 to 257,000 likes in 12 hrs, following up on the binders full of women quip, or the other tumblr feeds, etc., that maybe, just maybe, the insular, white, well paid world of TV pundits and oh so smart political experts might want to step outside for a minute and see how the rest of the world thinks.

  • berttheclock on October 17, 2012 10:17 AM:

    Yes indeed, Mitt had "binders of women" brought to him. He did appoint women to half of his cabinet, the same as a former Republican Governor of Massachusetts. But, none of those women were in power positions and had to report to two men, who were considered to be "Super Cabinet" members, Robert Pozen and Douglas Foy. His Lt Governor, was a woman, however, Lt Gov Healey only had two functions. One was to await any possible ascension to become Governor, should anything untoward happen to Mitt or should he resign and the other was to preside over the Governor's Council. There are many in that Commenwealth who believe the over $124,000 salary and the six assistants to run that office are really a waste of taxpayer's money. The majority of the time, the Lt Gov travels around the state giving speeches

    BTW, how many women were made partners at Bain? Zero?

  • Ronald on October 17, 2012 10:23 AM:

    It was a fine performance by Mr. Obama (sorry to all the Republican concern trolls like 'al' up there), and a rather bumbling one by Mr. Romney.
    The raised eyebrow expression when Mr. Obama told him to 'check the transcript'. The 'internet meme' moment when Mr. Romney talked about 'binders of women'.
    When you live in an information bubble, like Mr. Romney and the Fox news crowd, it comes as rather a shock when 'facts' and 'reality' hit you square in the face.
    Round 1- Romney. Round 2- Obama.
    The press should be salivating for Round 3.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 17, 2012 10:24 AM:

    Well, dang. I turned in early last night and didn't watch the debate. So I guess I missed Obama turn his swag on.
    But I'm willing to bet there's more where that came from. But I want him to drop the mic for Debate 3 and put all this Romney nonesuch to bed for good.

    I expect Romney will go down in a vainglorious ball of flames on foreign policy and try to bring Obama with him. Romney's definitely going to crank up the mendaciousness and the arrogance to 12 for the next debate. If the Libya ploy went horribly awry last night--which seemed like his only kinda-sorta "zinger" on foreign policy, incorrect though it was--I can't figure what he'll claim is his foreign policy platform. The substance-less short-game strategy of "lying with conviction" and/or "repeating abstract, non-specific talking points" is starting to show wear and tear now that Debate 2 is out of the way.

  • gregor on October 17, 2012 10:25 AM:

    I would have liked to see a forceful 'how can you argue with a person who changes his position every second' moment but perhaps that was too much to expect.

    Obama did great.

  • John B. on October 17, 2012 10:26 AM:

    Obama was Obama, and it worked. Romney was Willard, and it was disgusting. The "women in my binders" remark will resonate. So, too, many of his lies.

    One thing that continues to puzzle me: Why does Obama not crisply diss the Republican Congress???? Everyone on the planet knows that much of Obama's agenda was derailed by obstructionism not seen since Jackson's first term of office (1829-1832). Roosevelt won reelection with an all-fronts attack on similar (but not as unanimous) Republican obduracy. The American voters hold congress in such low esteem only Wall Street bankers are lower.

  • Leopold Von Ranke on October 17, 2012 10:28 AM:

    From a personal economic perspective, Romney would be very, very good for me -- short term. Long term, I don't think so. You don't even have to read between the lines to figure this out from what he said last night. RIFing a public employee puts an average of about $600 in my pocket, and Romney would put a lot of hundred dollar bills in my pocket, beginning in about the spring of 2014. But, in the long run, all those unemployed people would just be a drag on everybody. Their children, discouraged from birth, will be an additional drag on everybody.

    Don't understand why people don't understand this. Supply-side economics just don't work. Yeah, give me a tax break so I can "job create." If the demand created by people with jobs ain't there because people don't have jobs, I ain't hiring anybody.,

  • jjm on October 17, 2012 10:33 AM:

    Mormons do not have a terrific track record on women.

    But did it ever occur to you that Obama, who answered all of M's questions in the first debate but did so in a muted, non-showy way, was watching Mitt strutting around and figuring out the best angles for attack the next time? And isn't coming from behind almost always a better narrative in politics?

    Obama wiped the floor with MR, and did so with immense poise, as Mitt grew hotter under the collar and more nervous, barking like a 'boss' ...

  • James M on October 17, 2012 10:37 AM:

    I knew this format would be not be a good one for Mitt Romney but I didn't expect the debate to turn into a rout. The reason why the format was so bad for Mitt is that he would have to:

    1. Interact with normal people
    2. Show some unscripted sides of his personality.

    Mr. Romney has repeatedly shown that he does not interact well with normal folks and the guy just has an unappealing personality. I think those are the main reasons that the GOP primary voters were so desperate to find a viable replacement.

    The fact that a lying, seemingly soul-less shape shifter like Mr. Romney could get so far is a sad statement on our political system. I think BO will win, but unless the Dems take the House by some miracle he is in for a tough 4 years!

  • LAC on October 17, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Oh, Al, go sit down and eat your pudding. Your fellow got bitch slapped and most of damage was self inflicted. You know, for party that loves to talk about taking responsibility for self, y'all got excuses at the ready.

    T2, I don't know what women folks they were polling - probably Ann Romney's friends, but this woman and her friends are not abandoning Obama - especially not for a asshat that cannot answer the question of pay inequality, yammers on about a binder of women like some extra on the set of "Mad Man", and even lies about that. Jaysus, did Romney really think his portrayal of events wasn't going to get fact check? No wonder he left office with a 36% approval rating.

  • POed Lib on October 17, 2012 10:47 AM:

    Al: Willard got his nuts handed to him. Obama cleaned his clock. He could have done more, but as one comment noted, there's only so much time, and so many issues.

    Obama showed fire, command of the facts, and mastery of the field. A clear win.

  • SecularAnimist on October 17, 2012 10:49 AM:

    Post-debate, Candy Crowley said "I had that question for all of you climate change people."

    The question she was referring to was this one, directed to President Obama:

    "Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?"

    So, a question about LOWERING GASOLINE PRICES is apparently as close as the corporate media will allow the debate to get to THE imminent existential threat to the very existence of human civilization.

    And what's worse is that Obama and Romney responded by challenging each other as to which one of them has done and will do more to INCREASE THE EXTRACTION OF FOSSIL FUELS -- with Obama boasting that his administration has done more to expand US oil drilling than the Bush/Cheney administration did, and Romney complaining that even that is not enough "Drill Baby Drill".

    Meanwhile, according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization, just one more year of the global warming-driven megadroughts that are devastating agriculture all over the world will cause a "global hunger crisis" -- which is to say, FAMINE -- leading to widespread food riots, massive social upheavals, the collapse of governments and world-wide chaos.

    During the next Presidential term, one of these two men is going to have to deal with FOOD SHORTAGES right here in the USA.

    And yet neither one of them is willing to face the facts and talk about this issue.

  • Crusty the ex-Clown on October 17, 2012 10:55 AM:

    It's Multiple-Choice Mitt, not Moderate Mitt. There never was a Moderate Mitt, just a PR campaign to make him look moderate. His real moniker is Weathervane Willy.

    The Number One Question which should have been asked last night but wasn't is this: "What kind of knickers are you wearing?" I firmly believe in the right of all Americans to know whether or not the candidates have to wear magic underoos in order to perform the normal duties of the head of state.

  • Dr Lemming on October 17, 2012 11:11 AM:

    SecularAnimist, thank you for bringing up global warming. It's unfortunate that the moderator was that retro. But it isn't just the corporate media. I had a professor who was one of the leading progressives in the urban planning field dismiss my global warming concerns by saying, "Aw, that won't happen for another hundred years."

    Obama's handlers may think they need to avoid talking about global warming but I still would insist that he is much better on this issue than Romney. It's important to support Obama AND press for tougher policies.

    There's no substitute for more aggressive organizing. As FDR once said to Upton Sinclair: I agree with you -- now go out there and make me do it.

  • Joe Friday on October 17, 2012 11:14 AM:

    Well, the MSM got the story they been peddling, that Willard moved ahead in the polls because of the first debate and Obama was behind, and now he's fought his way back and it's a tie.

    Nevermind the polling in the battleground states never moved outside of the MOE and Obama stayed ahead the entire time.

  • Josef K on October 17, 2012 11:30 AM:

    Al on October 17, 2012 9:50 AM:

    It's always entertaining reading the comment section of this site and seeing all the liberal spinmeister wannabes at work.

    Romney was facing a hostile hand-picked crowd and a partisan liberal moderator in a liberal state. His performance was heroic.

    Either someone forgot to activate their tags, or they're seriously off their meds.

    There are words that simply repel one another; "Romney" and "heroic" are such an example.

  • g on October 17, 2012 11:31 AM:

    BTW, how many women were made partners at Bain? Zero?

    Thanks for that reminder. Because Mitt's approach to women's inequity in the workplace is, twofold: 1) "The magical free market place will fix it," and 2) "Well, I hired a couple of women."

    You've just reminded me to add to number 2 - "when it was important for my public image."

  • bigtuna on October 17, 2012 11:44 AM:

    The binders full of womeh facebook is now up to 276 k likes - almost 20 k in last hr.... tee hee

  • POed Lib on October 17, 2012 11:45 AM:


    Obama did miss an opportunity with that one, I think. Romney demonstrated that 1) he would hire women when he absolutely had to and 2) would not lift a finger to ensure that others would do the same.

    I was hoping that Obama would say "OK, you filled 4 jobs with women 10 years ago. What have you done since then?"

  • exlibra on October 17, 2012 11:46 AM:

    The "binders full of women"thing was amazing, but I was even more struck by Mitt's reasoning for flexible hours for women -- because they have to get home and cook dinner for their kids. That went hand-in-glove with his "if you have to have women in the workforce". It appears that, to Mitt, the best thing regarding women is to go back to the 50ties, when them wimmin were kept in their place -- barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.

    And also, too... Was I the only one who was gobsmacked by his bleating "government does not create jobs government doesn't create jobs". It was towards the end of the townhall and kinda lost in a general melee. And it was not a propos of any question that had been asked, but, apparently, because he still had one talking point left to discharge. He sounded so lost and cranky, like a little boy woken up in the middle of the night by a nightmare. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he refuses to attend on Monday (Mommy, don't make me go! I hate school!), or to see his aides push him onto the stage (with Ann pulling), kicking and screaming in protest.

  • bdop4 on October 17, 2012 1:42 PM:

    Great comments as usual.

    Ron Byers: I too was struck by that cap. gains/interest comment. Not only would it drastically reduce his tax rate, but would do absolutely nothing for most middle class voters whose investments are entirely in their retirement plans.

    T2: I don't think women voters have left Obama. I don't know where they're getting the numbers indicating otherwise.

    SecularAnimist: I found that situation pretty incredible too. I imagine Obama feels the need to protect himself in Ohio and other coal states, but it defintely is in the wrong direction.

    Next Debate: Obama needs to hammer home that Romney has the SAME PEOPLE that GWB did when we waged two unnecessary wars. If elected, this country engaging in at least two more ME invasions is a fait acommpli.

  • Peter C on October 17, 2012 4:44 PM:

    I couldn't watch the debate, but I'd love for "Please proceed, Governor" to take off as a meme. It was a lovely 'have some more rope' moment.

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