President Obama won the final debate, but Republican Mitt Romney played it cool and demonstrated he can be an effective commander-inchief. A poll done by CNN immediately after the debate confirmed both of those statements.
Registered voters who watched the debate and who were polled said Obama won by a 48 percent-to-40 percent margin. But when asked about the ability of both men to handle the presidency, it was almost even. The president got a positive 63 percent response, and 60 percent said Romney was equally qualified. And maybe even more important, Romney closed a wide gap about his likability. Obama had enjoyed a wide margin in that area, but he only leads now 48 percent to 47 percent.
Most political analysts who wrote about the last debate agreed it isn’t going to change many voters’ minds. Foreign policy doesn’t come close to matching the effect the nation’s economy has on presidential elections.
George Friedman, in a piece for Stratfor Global Intelligence, talked about the real purpose of debates that explains why they helped Romney.
Friedman said, “Debates test one thing: the ability to quickly respond to questions of numbing complexity that are impossible to answer in the time available. … At their best, debates test a candidate’s coolness under pressure and ability to articulate some thought at least vaguely connected to the question while convincing the viewers that you are both personable and serious.”
Beth Reinhard in a National Journal election analysis said, “Over the course of three presidential debates, Republican Mitt Romney succeeded in defying Democratic attacks — and overcoming his own past missteps — that had threatened to disqualify him as a reasonable choice for voters weary of President Obama.”
Ron Fournier, also writing in National Journal, a Washington, D.C., political magazine, said Romney didn’t win the last debate and hasn’t won the presidency. However, Fournier said Romney won the debate season and “became one of the few presidential candidates to make debates matter.”
An Obama adviser, who understandably didn’t want to be quoted by name, told Fournier, “For the first time in this campaign, I’d rather be in Romney’s shoes than ours.”
The debates are over, and it’s time to look at other aspects of the presidential campaign. The importance of the electoral votes of Ohio continues to be a major key to victory for both candidates.
Charlie Cook in his Journal column said the race is close, but the road to 270 electoral votes is more difficult for Romney than it is for Obama.
“No matter how you cut it, Ohio is the pivotal state, and it isn’t just the history of having gone with every winner from 1964 on and with no Republican ever capturing the White House without it,” Cook said.
The campaigning by both men for the election coming up in less than two weeks will be designed to target undecided voters in Ohio and in the other swing states. They also want to avoid making any major mistakes.
The Romney camp did succeed in forcing the president to release a pamphlet outlining his goals for the next four years. Most of his campaign has primarily been directed at bad-mouthing his GOP rival. You knew it was one of those last-ditch efforts to save face when David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser, felt forced to defend the release of the pamphlet two weeks before Election Day.
One of Romney’s best lines Monday night may have finally hit home when he told Obama, “Attacking me is not an agenda.”
A special thanks to Rich Lowry of National Review, who in a political column published Wednesday in the American Press offered a description of Obama that fits him perfectly.
“All of President Barack Obama’s campaign rallies could be summed up in one sentence, ‘The president spoke, and hilarity ensued,’ ” he said.
Lowry added, “All of his life he has been around people prepared to be impressed by him.”
A recent PBS “Frontline” story on both candidates made the point that Obama has always been someone people love to be around, the life of the party. And Obama enjoys the adoration and the limelight. He always takes great pains to emphasize that he is the president and commanderin-chief. We saw some of that in Monday night’s debate.
We could also call Obama our entertainment president. After all, he is the darling of the Hollywood crowd and the nightly television talk shows. David Letterman has made his late-night show a reliable Obama booster. Letterman has continuously made fun of Romney and wonders why Romney has declined invitations to appear on his show.
The TV and cable news networks have given Obama hours and hours of free air time, and it continues. NBC-TV’s “Rock Center” with Brian Williams, for example, is featuring the president tonight. And he gets all the time he needs on other news shows.
No other sitting president has tried so hard to reach so many audiences, even appearing on some of the daytime fluff shows. It cheapens an office revered by the American people, who expect better from their president. Election night will tell us whether they still hold their commander-in-chief to a higher standard.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].