Debates tied, showdown in Boca

Oct 18, 2012 by

With two of the three presidential debates behind us, the score is tied with Gov. Mitt Romney handily winning the first and President Barack Obama rebounding strongly in the second matchup Tuesday night.

This raises the stakes for the final contest only days away at Lynn University in Boca Raton. All eyes again will be on Florida and interestingly, in the same city where Romney made his infamous “47 percent comment” at a fundraising event.

In the first debate in Denver, Romney strode onto stage with confidence and a sense of purpose. Obama didn’t show up.

Physically he was there but his supporters were rightfully dismayed and deflated by his lackadaisical performance. In an effort to seem “presidential” or above the fray, he appeared aloof, disinterested and outmatched.

Romney scored on style, performance and likeability. That was particularly troubling for the Obama campaign, which was winning the likeability battle and effectively portraying Romney as out of touch and not “one of us.”

Romney managed to be biting and aggressive with a smile on his face while maintaining a modicum of respect for the office of President.

Obama and his surrogates correctly point out that Romney suddenly moved to the center during the debate by modifying his positions without admitting that he did so.

Obama’s people pointed out Romney’s inconsistencies after the event. In a debate, however, if an answer is not challenged immediately, the point goes to the one making it even if it’s wrong.

Obama missed many opportunities to set the record straight when it mattered and has paid the price for failing to do so. After the first debate, polls shifted to Romney.

Tuesday’s debate offered Obama the chance to redeem himself and reinvigorate his supporters and he didn’t disappoint. The main difference? He came prepared to fight, to call out inaccuracies and to tout his successes.

Romney held his own and provided a solid performance, but he was flustered at times by an aggressive opponent who brought his B+ game.

The town hall format allowed the candidates to move and interact with the “undecided voters” who posed the questions. Neither candidate capitalized on the chance to connect with the questioners although this is where pundits felt Obama would have an advantage.

The format allowed the candidates to get in each other’s faces and their body language did have an effect on the outcome.

Here Obama claimed the advantage, clearly getting under Romney’s skin. The display of testosterone in the room might have backfired with women who, like me, cringed at times.

Interestingly, Obama showed little aggression in the first debate and apparently felt the need to “man up” Tuesday. For his supporters, his assertive body language was a welcomed change.

Romney, on the other hand, was perceived as rude to both the moderator, Candy Crowley, and Obama. He failed to display the cool confidence he had in Denver.

The questioners allowed both candidates to bring up the points they wanted to highlight. The questions on immigration, women in the workplace and how Romney differs from George W. Bush helped Obama; the economy, the disenchanted Obama voter and Libya should have benefited Romney.

While not a knockout, some damage was done. Romney’s response on Libya backfired and his line about “binders of women” has taken on a life of its own on social media as well as the mainstream media.

Obama’s final response to a question enabled him to cite Romney’s “47 percent” remark without giving Romney a chance to rebut it. That ended the debate on a sour note for the challenger.

Time, and the polls, will show if this performance will stop Romney’s momentum, slow it down or reverse it.

With the score now tied, the final presidential debate on foreign policy looms large and, of course, Florida will be the stage.

I suspect both men will bring their A games.

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