Friday, October 5, 2012

Obama Loses Debate. Why?

Why did Obama lose the debate?  It is important?

I did not watch the Presidential Debates.  Frankly, I forgot they were on, and really they are not that important.  

What was that I said?  That a media event hyped by the media as the end-all to our political discourse is in fact, not really all that compelling?  Yes, I said it.  I'm a media heretic.

But I am not sure the debate changed the minds of anyone on the Left or Right.  If you made up your mind before the debate, chances are, it didn't change it much.   And just like Romney's "47%" comment, once the media hoopla dies down, people will forget about it.  The average drone can't remember what happened two "news cycles" ago.

But Obama was less than charismatic, coming across as a policy wonk reading from note cards, while Romney told homey stories and got his "zingers" in.  In a way, it was destined to be this way.

For example, in the beginning, Romney told these tear-jerker stories about women grabbing his arm and asking where their husband's job went.   Then he says his wife had a similar experience - a woman grabbing her arm and asking about where their job went.   Note how carefully this was crafted - Romney is behind in the woman's vote, so he uses them as props for his homily, and tosses the wife in for a little more effect.

Now, you might think Obama would come back with a zinger on that.  For example, something like, "Governor Romney, the reason these people are asking you where their jobs went, is that you were the one who sent them to China, during your tenure at Bain Capital!"

But a President can't do that, without coming across as un-Presidential.   And Obama wasn't in Zinger mode that night.

So instead, he read a list of facts and figures, thinking that logic and numbers would carry the day.

And Romney's strategy in this regard was brilliant.   Whatever Obama said, even if it was something as simple as "the Sun rises in the East", Romney would just dispute the facts.  And in the context of the three-minute answer to debate questions, that works well.   Because all the other guy, with the index cards with numbers and facts can do, is just stammer and say, "well it IS TRUE!" and the news anchors will just mutter, "Well, there you have it, two opposing views, YOU, THE VIEWER, DECIDE!"

So Obama tried to call Romney out on his plan to cut taxes and increase spending and decrease the budget, which if you can do 1+1+1=3, you can understand is mathematically impossible.   Romney's repsonse?  "I never said that!"

And technically he can get away with that, as not allowing the Bush era tax cuts to expire is technically "not cutting taxes of the wealthy" - any further.   But if those tax cuts are reinstated, well, that is a tax cut for the wealthy.  It depends on your point of view.

But the hard logic is, the Bush Era tax cuts are what got us into trouble during the eight years of the Bush administration, creating deficit spending and increasing government debt, made worse by the recession.   If we are to increase the military budget while cutting taxes, AND cutting the deficit, the only way to do this is to decrease spending in other areas of the government.   And this means draconian cuts for all other government programs.  And many of the people cheering this fail to realize they are the recipients of this largess.

But debates like this illustrate how silly our electoral process really is.   The fight here is not for the hearts and minds of the decided voters, which represent about 95% of the electorate.  The fight here is not for the hearts and minds of the undecided voters, unless they live in a swing State, which is about 5% of the undecided voters.   So what both sides are trolling for is 5% of the 5% of the electorate, or 0.25% of the population of the country.

There is a secondary mission, of course, and Romney did well with this.  And that is to get the "base" motivated to vote.  If people think, "My guy won't win, anyway" they may not be inclined to vote.  Or, if they feel, "Well, he's my candidate, but I'm not really excited about him" then they may not be inclined to vote, either.    So you want to get people "fired up" to vote, particularly in those "Swing States" where a few hundred votes might sway the election.

On the other hand, perhaps losing the debate was by design.    Obama has had a pretty good lead so far in this election.  If you go to any of the electoral college maps online, you can see that Romney has an uphill battle from here.  Obama needs to turn only two "Swing States" in his favor to be re-elected.   Romney needs to turn at least four, including Florida.

So many Obama supporters were becoming complacent, assuming the election was a sealed deal.   If Romney is put back into play, well, maybe that will get out the "base" to vote, and contribute.  It is a possibility....