A few days have passed since the 1st Debate, and the reviews have been pretty unanimous in stating how the President got his proverbial backside kicked. It would seem that Americans agree with that assessment, if the tightening public opinion polls are any indication. Thankfully there is still a chance for the President to turn things around in the next debate, but the trajectory of the campaign has definitely changed. It's no longer a cakewalk.
Follow me to the Extended section for a sampling of the pundits and polls since the debate:
Bill Safire, one of the most prominent of the "talking heads" that (unfortunately) dominate our political discourse, had this to say:
Hitherto-smug Democrats are wondering what to do now that Barack Obama has been creamed by Mitt Romney in the opening debate.The challenger's strong showing has given new heart to down-ticket candidates who previously were running for cover:
Mr. Romney out-niceguyed him as he outpointed him. The challenger touched all the bases: he put the fear of Obama into old folks on Social Security, assured workers he would protect their jobs against foreign competition, related the deficit to a burden on our children...
Mr. Obama started out to show how many facts he could remember but ran into embarrassing stretches that made the viewer ache for him to get his thoughts together. Toward the end he sagged, gripping the lectern like an old fighter on the ropes.
What are the consequences of the unwimping of the challenger and the de-mything of the champ? Certainly it will make the race closer, especially as the first impression of a Romney "edge" is reinforced, in the telling, into an overwhelming Obama defeat. Silky Sullivan, the late-starting horse, is making his move...
Joe Grandmaison, a consultant to another Republican Congressman seeking a Democratic-held Senate seat, quipped, "If you leaned out the window at the end of that debate, you could have heard a collective sigh of relief from the Republican ticket."While some Democrats are pooh-pooing the debate as not affecting the race as a whole, even the Executive Director of the National Democratic Senatorial Committee publicly voiced his concern in the same article:
"We have some Democrats would win if the President has a tremendous victory," Mr. Daniels added. "But if his margin shrinks to a more ordinary victory, then a couple of those races become very iffy for us."Both the incumbent and the challenger have admitted the reality of what happened, and are doing their best to mitigate and exploit the impact of the debate, respectively.
President Says He Needed to Relax Before Debating
President Obama said today he had done too much studying and too little relaxing before the Presidential debate...At least the President recognizes that his opponent did so well, in part, because of his willingness to distort the truth. He's quoted in the same article as saying: "I still say if you read the transcript, you'll find that none of the facts I presented were refuted."
The [anonymous] official said Mr. Obama had told his own advisers that he realized his performance had been somewhat disappointing. "He said he feels he's had better nights," the official said...
He's got his work cut out for him. We still, for example, have to worry about the media playing up this so-called "crisis" with Social Security and Medicare. Just look at this editorial from Sunday:
It may gain votes to accuse Mr. Obama of insufficient devotion to the...recipients of Social Security benefits. But both candidates know that either higher taxes or reduced benefits - and probably some of each - will be needed to put the medical foundation of Social Security on a firm financial footing...Of course, the biggest issue that is now on the minds of the voters doesn't have to do with a specific issue, but with the President's ability to handle the duties of the office we entrusted him with 4 years ago.
Containing these costs...will probably require major changes in the way both private and public medical services are delivered. And these changes will undoubtedly require changing a greater portion of the cost to patients who can afford it. Mr. Romney is not serving the public by ruling out even small reductions in future benefits. Mr. Obama is no more responsible when he outbids the Republicans in promises to resist change...
To this, I can only hope his staff has prepared him to deliver a pitch-perfect zinger designed to quell voter worries, with humor serving as the right vehicle:
Mr. Trewhitt: Mr. President, I want to raise an issue that I think has been lurking out there for 2 or 3 weeks and cast it specifically in national security terms. You already are the oldest President in history. And some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale. I recall yet that President Kennedy had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuban missile crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?--------------------------------------
The President: Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt, and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience. [Laughter and Applause]
Every word in the blockquotes is taken word-for-word from articles and editorials from the Times between the 1st and 2nd debates between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. For those of you wondering where the above articles and quotes are from, I accessed them from the New York Times archives (courtesy of Rutgers University's library system). The Safire editorial is from October 10th; the next 2 articles were written by Hendrick Smith and Steven Weisman on October 11th and 12, respectively; and the second editorial was the Times' lead (always unattributed)editorial from the 12th.
The only changes I made were that references to "Reagan" were switched to "Obama", "Mondale" to "Romney", and "Republicans" to "Democrats" (and vice-versa). Joe Grandmaison was the Democrats' campaign manager in New Hampshire's US Senate race in 1984; "Mr. Daniels" is Mitch Daniels, the future Indiana Governor and OMB Director under George W. Bush, who was Executive Director of the NRSC in the 1984 cycle.
I sincerely apologize if anyone is irked by my satirical poke at the "doomsday Democrats" among us who fear President Obama's is danger of losing this election. There's no doubt we have a lot more work to do, and that the President has to take it to Mitt Romney in the next debate in order to put us back in the driver's seat.
Of this, however, I'm certain: when the dust settles on November 7th, Barack Obama will be reelected to the Presidency. He will win because Americans know he is, has, and always will be on their side, and Mitt Romney isn't, hasn't, and never will be. It's not yet "Morning in America" - but we're emerging from economic darkness , and we intend to keep moving forward until we reach the light of day again.