A more aggressive President Obama came out swinging against Governor Romney last night at Hofstra University in a town hall debate. Yesterday I previewed 10 things to watch for. Here are the results of those 10 items
1) Obama's aggressiveness
Check the box on this one. The President came out with daggers in his eyes and punch lines in his pocket. He came across very strong. Some argue he was too strong, almost disciplining the audience and talking at them. He spoke with a raised, angry voice for most of the debate. Overall, it was exactly what the doctor ordered, but it may have hurt his likability a bit.
2) Romney's personality
Have you ever seen the look of a person who just tasted something sour? Romney had that look on his face most of the night and it was not appealing. He should've smiled more. I think he struggled to demonstrate an ability to connect with average people on a personal level. Despite the aggressive attacks from the President, I still think Romney should have ignored the President and focused on speaking with the audience in attendance. Obama got under his skin and in his head, forcing Romney off message a couple times. This was his night to break his cold image and I think he partially accomplished that.
3) Candy Crowley
She did not get trampled. Overall, she was a strong referee in this bitter verbal boxing match.
4) The Questions
Crowley cherry picked the questions from the audience to tailor them to the President. The early questions about gas prices and the economy were a continuation of the previous debate. However, the questions about equal pay for women, immigration and the Bush years were put on a tee for the President to swing at and hit out of the park. They were Obama softballs and areas Romney has previously struggled with. In fairness, Crowley put Libya on the tee for Romney and he struggled with it. There was only 1 foreign policy question which may go to show how little Americans are paying attentions to problems abroad.
Romney was supposed to strike hard at the President on the mishandling of the 9/11/12 attack in Benghazi, Libya. President Obama, as expected, was ready for it and delivered an extremely effective response. There was an opening for Romney on this issue but he failed to explain the failure and tie it together with the growing concern about extremists in north Africa, American causalities in Afghanistan and the fear of a nuclear Iran. Obama immediately blunted the critique by taking responsibility for the failure in Benghazi. It was a high point for Obama.
6) Body Language
It looked more like a WWE pay-per-view promo throw down than a presidential debate. All the pointing and aggressive motions were off-putting. That must have been one uncomfortable room to be sitting in.
The only real moment of spontaneity was the conclusion when the President slipped in the 47% comment, leaving Romney no time to respond. Other than that, both men played off their script and did little to evoke any lasting images.
8) Who wins?
Obama needed a win and he got a slight edge in this one. Romney did not respond that well to grueling criticism. I said if the debate was a draw, Romney gets the advantage because his momentum will continue. I believe it was mostly a draw and Romney will continue to gain in polls, but probably not as quickly as the last week.
The Romney misstep on Libya was the only notable mistake of the night. However, I would advise him to never again use the term "binders of women."
The ratings are trickling in today and they look stronger than expected overall. I still expect live viewership to be way down in the swings states of Michigan and Ohio due to ALCS game 3 between the Yankees and Tigers. Final numbers will come in later today, but it looks like those numbers will be high.
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