The debate last night was a shock to many on both sides of this campaign. The often robotic, out of touch Romney seemed to come to life, while the empathetic, personable Obama seemed to be lackluster. Mr. Romney was charged up and animated while Mr. Obama was lethargic and disengaged. Most troubling, Romney seemed to toss out facts without regard to his past statements or their relationship to the truth. That in itself is not surprising. Anyone who has been following this campaign has come to expect this kind of behavior from both Romney and Ryan. The troubling part of this is that the President made little effort to challenge Romney. A fact not challenged can dangerously be taken as truth. The major danger presented by last night is that the ill informed will take some of those “facts” as truth. Aside from that, I believe that last night’s debate will impact on the campaign very little if at all.
It is a fact, that for the last few decades, the incumbent has lost the first debate. It is also a fact that for the last few decades the debates have made little difference in the ultimate outcome of the election. While there is no doubt that they are entertaining, most people tend to view them through their own filters. We all see and hear things through a set of filters made up of our life experience, our values, our preconceived impressions and our desires. Studies have shown that those viewing the famous Kennedy/Nixon debates on TV felt that Kennedy won, while those listening on radio felt that Nixon won. The truth in the debates is what we want it to be. For example, while their is a consensus among Democrats that the President’s performance was disappointing, there is also a consensus that Romney lied. While, Republicans felt that Romney finally showed the strength and assertiveness they have been hoping for, as the President proved himself to be the weak leader they have felt him to be all along. Did any of this change any minds?
It is a fact, that in this election, there is a smaller than usual group of “undecideds”. There has been much written about this group as both campaigns seemingly seek their support. It is my feeling that anyone who is undecided at this point has to be uninformed, disengaged and frankly, probably won’t vote. What information can they possibly need that hasn’t been available over the last three months? If they don’t have that information it isn’t even a matter of not asking for it, but rather a matter of avoiding it. You would have to be blind and deaf not to be aware. This leads me to believe that the “undecideds” are, for the most part, uninterested nonparticipants. Seeking their vote is a waste of time. So what difference does the debate really make?
The most often utilized metaphors in this campaign have been sports related. Are you on the Romney team or the Obama team? I heard the debates called the Super Bowl of politics. We, for the most part, have all chosen our team. We like to be right. We like to be proud of our team captain. We want to wear our team paraphernalia with pride. Most of all, we want to win. When our team captain does something that endangers our chance of winning, we are upset and angry. But we are not likely to switch teams. We didn’t choose to be on this team lightly. It represents who we are, what we believe and our dreams for our children and grandchildren.
One debate does not a campaign make. It doesn’t change who the President is, what he has done or what he will do in the future. Nor does it change who Romney and Ryan are, what they believe, what they have done and what they want to do. The next weeks will not be easy, but my support for the President is not so fickle. I hope yours isn’t either.