The lack-luster performance of President Obama is sure to leave many of his supporters disappointed. When I witnessed this, at first I thought that he was tired or ill or just didn't want to be at the debates this night. Then I began to realize what may have actually happened that put him into what appeared to be a bad mood.
The first question was about differences in economic policies. President Obama answered honestly by explaining his idea was to build the economy from the middle-class out and not top-down. He stated his views just as we have heard them over and over again during his campaign speeches. He complained that Romney's tax plan to reduce top earners and corporate taxes as well as adding $2 trillion for military spending that the military did not ask for would increase the deficit and was not good for the economy. He did not think it was good for the economy for government to give oil companies $2 Billion annual subsidies nor did he think that government tax credits for sending jobs overseas would help create jobs in America. He favors eliminating the oil company subsidies and giving tax breaks for those companies that bring jobs back to America.
That's when I knew President Obama was going to have a difficult time during this debate. When I realized he was arguing with a pathological liar.
A distinct advantage that Romney had going into this debate was that he was sure of what President Obama's policies were. He could count on the President to state the facts as he always had. Romney knew the President wouldn't lie. Governor Romney knew his enemy, so to speak.
The President, on the other hand only thought that he knew what Romney would say. Being a man of honor, President Obama was annoyed by the fact that Romney chose debate night to change his policies yet again, and you could see the disbelief in the President's face. Now the President was in a bind.
The President reacted to Romney's lies in a gentlemanly yet impotent way. President Obama's facts were correct in each case, yet they did not hit the mark with the audience. Even more troubling was the potential for uninformed voters to believe Romney's lies simply because he presented them more enthusiastically than the President's facts.
President Obama rejected all of these ideas but with much less enthusiasm than Romney had in presenting the lies. This may have made the President appear to be less confident than Romney, even though he was being truthful and correct.
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On the same question, Romney may have gained points by saying that when he was sworn in as Governor of Massachusetts he had a mostly Democratic legislature and that he learned early on how to work along bi-partisan lines.
Overall, Romney attacked more, appeared more enthusiastic and appeared more prepared. It was Romney's etch-a-sketch moments that appears to have really caught President Obama off-guard though. The President just doesn't seem to know how to react to a flim-flam man and showing disgust seems to be how he handled it. Unfortunately for him and for Obama supporters everywhere, this may ultimately be how he lost this debate.
An approval rating meter was displayed on the TV screen so that we could judge how Independent voters in the audience were reacting to each of the men. That was interesting to watch, but a suggestion for the next debates which may have more significance to viewers would be to have the two men wear lie-detectors.