If you were expecting a breakthrough moment of some sort during Wednesday night’s presidential debate, you were almost certain to be disappointed — and, in that regard, the debate did not disappoint.
Although these debates sometimes produce a moment that defines a campaign — think, for example, of Ronald Reagan’s masterful “There you go again” shot in 1980 that essentially sunk Jimmy Carter — the odds were stacked against this debate from the start.
Both President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, have a reputation as cautious, careful debaters — and they buttressed those tendencies with hours of preparation before stepping onto the stage in Denver on Wednesday night.
But it was, nevertheless, a surprise to see how aggressive and assured Romney was — and an equal surprise to witness such a listless performance from Obama.
With national polls still showing the presidential race as quite close, you would have thought that both Romney and Obama would be cautious in the debate, each essentially playing not to lose. But that’s not how Romney approached the debate, and in our view, he clearly came out on top Wednesday night. Whether that translates into a swing in the polls remains to be seen.
Two more debates remain between the presidential candidates. It will be interesting to see if Obama shakes off this sluggish performance and whether Romney keeps swinging hard.
In the meantime, fans of potential gaffes on these big stages will just have to wait for this week’s vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan. Those two guys shouldn’t disappoint. (mm)