Saturday, October 6, 2012

the first debate

I don't like to use this space to promote my party preferences, but I probably should comment on the Obama-Romney debate because I used to be a pretty good college debater and even a debate coach.

I know what a winning debater looks like, and this week his name was Mitt Romney. He was fluent, well-prepared, well-organized with both general propositions and pertinent facts. He had an effective style and substance. President Obama, by contrast, had some reasonable substance, but he sure lacked the style.

I saw the contest as one between the Salesman and the Professor. And politics is mostly a sales job. [Remember my citation of Maverick's line that I consider the politician's credo: If you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, those are pretty good odds.]

What's really surprising to me is that this really was a "debate," not just a joint news conference. Jim Lehrer invited the candidates to explain their differences with their opponent on each topic. Romney was prepared to do that; Obama was less well-prepared or at least less eager to engage combatively.

What Romney needs for the remaining two debates is more of the same, plus practice responding to a more aggressive opponent.

What Obama needs is more practice, more concentration on key arguments -- both main points and vivid examples, and recognition that appearances are important. He has to look up, not down; show eagerness to be there and to engage on the substance; and be dignified ["presidential"] but relaxed.

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