The second debate between Trump and Clinton starts at 8:00 PM Central Time tonight, and for lovers of political theater it promises to be exceptional. Any other politician would be dead meat now but Donald Trump is not “any other politician.” He isn’t a politician at all, as he has demonstrated time and time again in this campaign. What began, I suspect, as a vanity ride for him, has turned into a political movement that has been consistently underestimated by his foes, including me. Well, I am done underestimating Donald Trump. Tonight promises to be an epic disaster for him, but I would not be surprised to see him throw away the political rulebook yet again and snatch a victory from a debacle. We shall see. For a political junkie like me, it does not get any better than this.
Update: Trump has just held a news conference featuring Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Kathy Shelton. It looks like he is taking the nuclear option unless this is a pre-debate headfake.
Update: Trump thus far, a half hour into the debate, is bringing his A game in the debate: Calm, articulate and on the attack. He has won most of the exchanges with Hillary.
Update: An hour in Trump is more than holding his own. Clinton came into this debate over confident and Trump came in knowing that he couldn’t afford another loss. Frank Luntz’ focus group is showing that 17 think Trump is winning, 4 think Hillary is winning and 9 think it is a tie.
Update: I called the first debate for Clinton and I think Trump is just as clearly the victor in the second debate. A bravura performance considering the pressure Trump is under.
Update: From the Luntz focus group:
Focus Group: Who are you willing to vote for?
BEFORE #DEBATE • Hillary: 8 • Trump: 9
AFTER DEBATE • Hillary: 4 • Trump: 18
I have to give the Republican National Committee credit this year when it comes to being quick off the dime in producing web videos. The above was put out immediately in the aftermath of the debate contrasting the calm demeanor of Romney from the somewhat frenetic and combative stance of Obama. This clip was typical of the entire debate:
And what an interesting history, up till this night, the debates have written in this election contest. In the first debate a lifeless Obama and an energized Romney turned the election on its head with Romney taking the lead from Obama. The second debate saw an aggressive Obama, full of sound and fury but ultimately signifying little as Romney turned in a very good performance and Obama gained bupkis from his efforts in the polls. Here are my thoughts on the third and final debate.
1. Libya Missed Opportunity-Libya was the first question out of the box and Romney didn’t attempt to lay a glove on Obama. Mistake.
2. I Am Not a Hawk- Romney went out of his way throughout the debate to refute Obama’s argument that he is a hawk. My guess is that is correct. If Romney is left to his own devices I believe he would be tightly focused on getting the American economy moving. Unfortunately American presidents often are not allowed to engage in “of the world forgetting and by the world forgot”, as 9-11 demonstrated.
3. Lacklustre-Of all the debates I found this one the most dreary. I think both Obama and Romney were repeating talking points from previous debates and the entire debate had a “been there, done that” feel.
4. Obama on the Attack-Like most candidates who are behind, Obama was on the attack all night. It would have been much more effective if he had not also been sneeringly condescending while doing so.
5. Hollow Military-Romney effectively challenged the reductions in military strength that have been the hallmark of the Obama record on defense. Continue reading
“3. Crowley Hearts Obama-Candy Crowley attempted to come to the rescue of the President in misstating that Obama blamed the Benghazi attack on terrorism in his rose garden statement. That is incorrect. The operative phrase in Obama’s statement: Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts. Crowley’s intervention indicated that she was not a moderator but rather an Obama partisan.” Continue reading
Predictably Obama was very aggressive tonight. Less predictably perhaps, Romney was just as aggressive. Here are some thoughts:
1. Wired Obama-Obama came loaded with talking points and spoke rapidly throughout the debate to get them all out.
2. Face Time-Classic political theater with Obama and Romney having a few face to face clashes during the debate.
3. Crowley Hearts Obama-Candy Crowley attempted to come to the rescue of the President in misstating that Obama blamed the Benghazi attack on terrorism in his rose garden statement. That is incorrect. The operative phrase in Obama’s statement: Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts. Crowley’s intervention indicated that she was not a moderator but rather an Obama partisan.
4. Romney the Good-Romney gave another good debate performance and I expect he will do just as well in the third debate. If Obama is hoping for Romney to stumble or commit a gaffe, I think he will wait in vain.
5. Boxing match-Although the back and forth got a bit tiresome to me after a while, I did like the way in which both candidates talked directly at each other. Romney did make the mistake of asking too many questions of Obama, as if he were going to get any forthright answers. Continue reading
I posted debate advice for Mitt Romney prior to the first debate which may be read here. My advice for round two is as follows:
1. Don’t Get Cocky-You had an exceptionally good first debate. Enjoy it and forget it. That was round one of a three round fight, and who is left standing at the end of the third round is how you determine the victor.
2. Don’t Sit on a Lead- That is what Obama tried to do in round one and it was a disaster. Don’t make that elementary mistake.
3. This is a Townhall Meeting-We have Joe and Jane Citizens asking the questions and that is a challenge. The media is predictable, ordinary citizens are not. Listen closely to the questions and answer them. Ignoring questions at a townhall can be ruinous, especially if they are inane.
4. Aggressive Obama-After his fairly passive performance at the last debate, Obama will probably come out full of fight. That can work to your advantage at a townhall if Obama comes across as over the top before a live audience. After the Biden debacle I think he will probably avoid this, but don’t be surprised if he has flashes of temper and be ready to capitalize on them.
5. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs-You can bet that almost every person in that townhall will have a friend or relative who is either unemployed or underemployed. Pledge to turn the economy around and put America be back to work. Be detailed as much as time allows. People were impressed the first go round at your breadth of knowledge and your ideas. Play off of those strengths. Continue reading
The latest Pew poll shows Romney up four points among likely voters, 49-45. This poll was taken October 4- October 7 after Romney’s debate win:
Mitt Romney no longer trails Barack Obama in the Pew Research Center’s presidential election polling. By about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the Oct. 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September. Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit.
Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better. A majority (64%) of voters who watched the debate describe it as mostly informative; just 26% say it was mostly confusing.
In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month. Continue reading
Gallup has announced that in their tracker Mitt Romney has pulled dead even with Obama since the debate:
Registered voters’ preferences for president are evenly split in the first three days of Gallup tracking since last Wednesday’s presidential debate. In the three days prior to the debate, Barack Obama had a five-percentage-point edge among registered voters.
An Oct. 4-5 Gallup poll finds roughly two in three Americans reporting that they watched the Oct. 3 debate, similar to what Gallup measured for each of the three 2008 presidential debates. Those who viewed the debate overwhelmingly believe Romney did a better job than Obama, 72% to 20%. Republicans were nearly unanimous in judging Romney the winner. But even Democrats rated Romney as doing a better job than Obama, 49% to 39%. Continue reading
It was a total rout. Romney dominated the debate from beginning to end. Obama was attempting to sit on a lead which is the worst strategy against an able opponent, and Romney demonstrated that he is a very able opponent tonight in spades. A few thoughts:
1. Best Performance Since Reagan-I have watched every presidential debate. Except for the 1980 Carter-Reagan debate I have never seen any debate where one candidate dominated as much as Romney did tonight.
2. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs-Romney kept the focus fixed throughout the debate on the 23,000,000 unemployed and continually returned to the subject of job creation.
3. Teleprompter Where Art Thou?-Obama gave a wretched performance. He rarely looked at Romney, while Romney always looked at him. Obama either looked at the moderator or had his head bent down, looking at his notes, with a half smirk on his face. His answers meandered and often had no point. Obama needs to dump Lurch, (Senator Kerry), and get someone to coach him who can actually prepare him for a debate. His performance was pathetic, and even his most rabid partisans, as indicated by the video of Chris “Tingle up my leg” Matthews at the beginning of this post indicates, realize it.
4. Mitt the King Wonk-The amount of detailed knowledge that Romney had at his fingertips was astounding. I know it astounded Obama, the pretender policy wonk.
5. Lehrer the Zombie-Before the debate began I thought Jim Lehrer was looking incredibly old. Romney was able to push him aside effortlessly and talk about what he wanted to talk about. Lehrer attempted to throw a few lifelines to Obama when Obama was floundering but his efforts were futile. Lehrer has moderated many presidential debates, but I guarantee the Democrats will make certain this is his last one. Continue reading
Tonight we are having the first of three Presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. They have both been engaged in debate preparation, and I would imagine that in both camps close study has been made of the best presidential debate performance ever by a candidate: that of Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter on October 28, 1980 in their one and only debate. Reagan was everything in the debate that a candidate should be: relaxed, in command of the facts, humorous and a master of devastating one liners: “There you go again!” Reagan at the end asked the essential question that almost all American voters do ask themselves when judging a president: “Am I better off than I was four years ago?” American presidential elections usually come down to the state of the economy, and Reagan understood this, and used the poor state of the economy in 1980 with devastating impact against Carter. I was a Reagan supporter and watched the debate with keen interest. After the debate I had no doubt that Reagan was going to win, and probably overwhelmingly. Here is a video of the complete debate: Continue reading
The first Presidential Debate will be tomorrow. Peter Roff at US News and World Report gives us a sample of what we can expect from
the unpaid Obama Press Agents most of the Mainstream Media in the coverage the day after the debate:
From the moment he crossed the stage to the podium at Wednesday night’s debate in Denver, President Barack Obama took a commanding lead in his first face-to-face encounter with his opponent in the upcoming election, a lead he never relinquished.
So confident was the president that he seemed to be floating a foot or so off the ground, Barack Obama was bright, engaging, and well-versed in every possible nuance of every question asked by the moderator, PBS’s Jim Lehrer. His opponent, in contrast, was nattily attired in an expensive outfit appropriate to his status as part of the 1 percent of the nation’s wealthiest individuals but, on substance, was sorely lacking in his understanding of the issues facing America.
“President Obama’s performance was so good, my whole body was tingling,” said Matt Christopher, the noted commentator for the SMBND cable news network. “In fact at one point I thought I might be having a stroke, but that would have been okay because the last thing I would have heard was Obama’s ringing defense of his superior presidency.” Continue reading
Unfortunately I missed the Lincoln-Douglas style debate the other night between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. It sounded like a fun* evening, and it’s refreshing to have something different than the painful two hour affairs involving all eight candidates offering one minute soundbites. Sadly, we’re scheduled to have 3,457** more of these standard debates. Joy.
Recently Rick Perry suggested that this debate overload might not be the best way to pick a candidate, and he even hinted at skipping a few. Had any of the other candidates said this he’d have been hailed a hero and carried off stage like Lincoln after the Jonesboro debate. But since Rick Perry has had, umm, less than stellar debate performances, it came off as a bit self-serving. Except he’s completely right.
If we must endure several more months of this debate hell, can’t we at least start thinning out the herd and allowing the candidates to go on for more than sixty seconds before some prissy debate moderator cuts them off?
One thing that we can do is start inviting only those candidates who actually have a shot at winning the nomination. Easy enough, except now we get into a debate about who should be allowed at the debate. This is the point where we have to pretend that Michelle Bachmann still might be the Republican nominee, so we can’t possibly shut out any candidate from the debate lest one of them gets hauled off in handcuffs protesting outside the debate hall due to his exclusion.*** In fact I can just imagine Rick Santorum breaking onto the stage bellowing “EXCUUUUUUUUSE ME” while yelling at Rick Perry that he was out of time. Sure it would be barrels of fun to watch Ron Paul’s fanbase immolate because the good doctor and only true constitutionalist (TM) was barred from the debate halls. But, in the interests of fairness, we probably can’t exclude any of these people. Except for Jon Hunstman. Seriously, I doubt Jon Hunstman views himself as a viable contender. No one noticed that he wasn’t at the last debate, including Jon Huntsman.
So what can we do to make these debates at least a bit more tolerable? Two changes might benefit both the candidates and the voters. First, we should have fewer candidates on stage. We can do this without eliminating candidates. If we’re really going to have two debates a week, just have different candidates at the debate. You can randomly assign candidates so that at the first debate you can have, say, Perry, Gingrich, Paul and Huntsman. Then, at the next debate, it will be Santorum, Bachmann, Cain and Romney. Then switch it up next week so that there are different pairings.
Second, discuss fewer topics and lengthen the time allotment. We don’t necessarily need Lincoln-Douglas essays, but let candidates spend three or four minutes expanding upon their answers. With four candidates you can still cover a lot of ground in ninety minutes or two hours, especially if we limit the moderators’ involvement in these affairs. Sure it won’t be as much fun as allowing a transgendered mutant space alien to ask a question about illegal immigration while forcing the candidates to answer in Esperanto, but it has the advantage of actually lending insight into the candidates’ thought processes.
Or we can just continue with the same exact format and grow dumber with each passing minute. The choice is yours.
*: Well, if you’re a political geek.
**: Number might be slightly exaggerated. Just slightly.
***: This actually happened in Atlanta in 1996 to Alan Keyes. I know because I was there supporting him and saw him get placed in the police cruiser. That was about as close as I have ever gotten to getting involved in an OWS-style protest. No justice for Keyes, no peace!
I made a semi-serious New Year’s Resolution not to discuss or even read about the presidential campaign until Labor Day. I didn’t quite live up to that resolution, but I have managed to steer clear of the discussion far more than I would have thought possible. So tonight was the first of the presidential debates that I have seen. Below are my thoughts on how each of the candidates fared.
One general comment: the debate moderators were horrendous. It seemed that about half of the questions were addressed to Rick Perry, and just about less than half to Mitt Romney. In fact the first ten minutes were essentially just a sparring match between the two. The most embarrassing part of the evening was when they trotted out a newscaster from Telemundo just to ask a question about immigration. Just awful.