The UK Telegraph’s Tim Stanley thinks Mitt Romney won last night’s debate. I think Romney failed to capitalize on a few opportunities, but that’s just me.
Romney won the third presidential debate – and how he did it was encapsulated in a single exchange. The candidates were discussing military spending and Romney had just accused Obama of making harmful cutbacks. The President wheeled out what must have seemed like a great, pre-planned zinger: “I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military’s changed.” The audience laughed, Obama laughed, I laughed. It was funny.
But there’s a catch. It’s below the fold.
The zinger didn’t zing, and probably hurt Obama in Virginia.
But here’s why it was also a vote loser. For a start, Twitter immediately lit up with examples of how the US Army does still use horses and bayonets (horses were used during the invasion of Afghanistan). More importantly, this was one example of many in which the President insulted, patronised and mocked his opponent rather than put across a constructive argument. His performance was rude and unpresidential. Obama seemed to have a touch of the Bidens, wriggling about in his chair, waving his hands dismissively and always – always – smirking in Romney’s direction. By contrast, Romney sucked up the abuse and retained a rigid poker face all night. He looked like a Commander in Chief; Obama looked like a lawyer. Who would you rather vote for?
Obama won the 2008 election almost solely upon his likability. Ironically, the likability factor is hurting him this cycle. In the debates – I watched all three – Obama came off as angry, arrogant, and condescending. Many focus groups came to the same conclusion, and I think that is why Romney is now ahead in many of the polls.
Of course, like every election, the Obama-Romney race will come down to battleground states. And with Ohio still leaning toward Obama, I am far from confident we’ll be rid of this man come January.