The expectations game is huge in debates, as politicos gauge how the candidate is expected to perform versus how they actually seemed to do during the event. Even with a good performance, if a candidate is expected to perform exceptionally well, they can still be considered to have lost the debate based on having not met expectations. And most people, both in the media and in the general public, expected President Obama to win the debate.
There are two strong ways of playing your cards during one of these contests; one of these ways is to concentrate on your plans and accomplishments, highlighting why people should vote for you. This can put you on the defensive, but it centers the discussion around your candidacy. The other way is to go after your opponent, doing your best to show why they should not be trusted with the office. This can make it look like you are the aggressor, but if played strongly, it can put the other party on the defense, disorientating their plan for the debate, causing them to make miscalculations in their presentation.
However, what happened was neither of these two options — the President went on the offensive, but weakly, triggering Romney’s defense systems, but centering the discussion around the former governor. This caused the air of the debate to shift from a choice between Romney or Obama to one of Romney or not Romney. This is a bad frame of reference for any incumbent politician.
After the debate, even many liberal columnists and pundits declared Mitt Romney the winner of that night’s event. Bill Maher stated that maybe the president did need a teleprompter, while filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted, in reference to the President’s campaign staff, “Fire all debate consultants now.” According to a CNN poll, two-thirds of those surveyed thought the Republican had won, versus just one in four who opined that the President had delivered the superior performance.
President Obama, who had a small lead over his main rival in the polls leading up to the debate, may have lost a couple points in the matchup. This first debate was an opportunity for Obama to separate himself from Romney with a couple extra insurance points, but he failed to do so that night. For this reason, President Obama is this column’s choice for political loser of the week. However, his campaign just announced that they raised $181 million in the month of September alone. That kind of money can buy a lot of public relation, so perhaps this loss won’t be so great for him after all.
The next debate will be between the Vice-presidential candidates on October 11th, followed by a Romeny/Obama rematch on October 16th, and the series will conclude with the two candidates for the highest office debating on October 22nd in Boca Raton.