The president was the favorite against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leading into the first debate last week, but he came out looking like the challenger. In fact, President Barack Obama performed so poorly that many Democrats have taken to the airwaves in an attempt to make excuses for him.
Al Gore blamed the higher altitude and a MSNBC analyst was quoted as saying, “There were so many lies coming across that stage and so many inaccuracies that it was hard for the president to comprehend it.” Many also attempted to say it was part of some type of grand strategy.
The most obvious issue with Obama’s performance was he rarely looked at Romney or the camera. Instead he stared at his notes when Romney was speaking and looked at the moderator when he was speaking, which caused his performance to appear weak and insincere and softened the few attacks he did launch at Romney. Obama’s performance was impassionate and appeared as though he did not want to be there, similar to when former President George H.W. Bush repeatedly looked at his watch while debating then-Governor Bill Clinton.
In fact, Obama was looking down so frequently, and for such long periods of time, he had the appearance of taking a nap every time Romney spoke. In contrast, when Romney spoke, he looked at the president and the camera, which made him seem more sincere and confident with his points. Romney also appeared to pay attention when the president spoke, which made him seem more interested in what Obama was saying, as well as in the event as a whole.
As a result, Obama was a contrast of himself in 2008 as well as the Romney of 2012. Romney explained his plans in ways the average person could understand, occasionally defended his plans and went on the attack many times throughout the debate. Meanwhile, when the president wasn’t failing at attacking Romney, he would sit us down for a complicated policy lecture.
In this lecture, the president attempted to explain why we are better off than we were four years ago, even though things appear as though they have actually gotten worse. In fact, many of the plans and ideas that were expressed by the president were the same ones he pitched to us four years ago.
This was a great night for Romney because he looked much more natural than he has since the convention. Romney, with the help of spineless moderator Jim Lehrer, was able take control of the debate by gutting the format and taking the fight directly to the president. He was also able to avoid another gaffe like the “47 percent” sound bite that has been mentioned frequently since it first aired. As awkward as Romney may appear on the campaign trail, he looked at home on stage during the debate.
Romney’s above-average performance was magnified substantially by the incumbent president’s performance, which would have been sub-par for any politician. Expectations were so high for Obama, and so low for Romney: A momentous momentum shift took place, which has energized the Romney campaign while putting Obama’s team on the defensive.
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