Open thread: The first debate

posted at 8:21 pm on October 3, 2012 by Allahpundit

9 p.m. ET all across the dial and streaming live at C-SPAN.org. Yesterday’s WSJ/NBC poll had 22 percent of likely voters saying that the debates will be “extremely important” to their vote. Today, Rasmussen finds 17 percent saying they’ll be “very important.” Either way, you’ve got roughly one-fifth of the electorate signaling some willingness to shift based on what happens tonight (and at the next two face-offs) in a race that’s statistically tied at the moment and arguably only now just beginning. To paraphrase “Honest Joe,” this is potentially a big effing deal.

Also a big effing deal? The media’s post-debate “narrative-building”:

Consider this experiment. In 2004, Kim Fridkin and other researchers at Arizona State University showed people footage of the third presidential debate, the debate plus 20 minutes of post-debate commentary on NBC, the debate plus 20 minutes’ time to read commentary on CNN.com. So who won the debate, Bush or Kerry? It depended on whether you watched the news…

People watching the debate tended to think that Kerry had won, as did those who read analysis on CNN. But those who watched the NBC post-morten had the opposite impression. Fridkin et al. write:

“Our findings suggest that voters’ attitudes are influenced by the arguments presented directly by the candidates during the debate as well as by the media’s instant analyses of the candidates’ debate performances….the impact of the candidates’ messages was often altered by the media’s instant analyses.”

The idea of NBC boosting Bush doesn’t compute for me any more than it does for you, but there you go. It’s not just the post-debate yammering that might influence viewers, either:

Through the art of video production, one candidate can be portrayed more favorably than the other. On October 7, 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain met for the second of three presidential debates. The format was a town hall debate. Both men roamed the floor and locked eyes with the audience members who asked questions. Numerous cameras were placed around the room to capture the candidates regardless of where they stood.

While equal time was given to each man for questions, the audience, when viewing the televised debate, experienced subtle differences in the camera angles for each candidate. Typically, when Obama spoke, the camera displayed a close up, eye-level image, filling the frame with his upper chest and face. This presented to the viewer a strong image of Obama. In contrast, when McCain spoke, the camera often showed a waist-up, medium shot, filling the frame with as much background as McCain himself. These shots made McCain appear small, which was exaggerated from time to time by camera angles that looked down on him. In addition, because of the wide shots of McCain, Obama had more face time on camera, as he was often shown in the background when McCain answered a question.

No one expects Romney to get a fair shake tonight in the aftermath, but one potential complicating factor is that not all of the media’s biases are strictly ideological. Ross Douthat (and Jon Chait) made a fair point recently about how their bias towards horse-race coverage casts a shadow of hopelessness over the candidate that’s fallen behind in the polls. Highly motivated, strongly partisan voters won’t care about that but low-information undecideds who pay attention only sporadically may be led to perceive the trailing candidate as, in Chait’s words, “faintly ridiculous,” which destroys the air of presidential viability that he’s trying to build. In Romney’s case, the ideological and horse-race biases overlap to work against the GOP, but they don’t always: John Cook of Gawker argued a few days ago that the media’s doing to Romney what it once did to both John Kerry and Al Gore, namely, pigeonholing him as a weird, stiff, hapless loser because his slight personal awkwardness is an obvious contrast with the confident charm of his opponent. It’s all about the narrative, and if they’ve got a narrative staring them in the face involving a guy who’s good at retail politics and a guy who’s not so good, that’s one that they’re going to grasp.

The punchline is that the media’s also biased for professional reasons towards having an exciting race to cover, and a post-debate “Romney comeback” narrative would serve that end. I’m not expecting it — I think ideological interests will trump all given that the race is so close — but if Mitt is sharp and composed, which he’s likely to be, you may see some “he helped himself tonight” chatter later even if there’s a reluctance by the press to pronounce him the winner. If you’re interested in watching the narrative sausage being made in real time, I recommend opening up a separate tab and following this feed of political journalists compiled by Matt Lewis. As with all Twitter communities, most of those people follow each other so there’ll be a plenty of perception insta-reinforcement afoot.

Tonight’s debate is supposed to be devoted to domestic policy but Libya likely will be mentioned. So will George W. Bush’s record, maybe by both sides. The 2007 Obama speech at Hampton U likely will not. Here’s the handy dandy Hot Air/Townhall Twitter widget, which should be buzzing until the wee hours. Enjoy.



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Comment pages: 1 3 4 5 6 7 46

Blame Boooooooosh

burrata on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Of COURSE Obama won the coin toss! Gee… who would have guessed? So he gets the first question and Romney is on defense immediately.

thatsafactjack on October 3, 2012 at 9:04 PM

Romney gets last word though.

gophergirl on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Romney bigger flag pin.

Obama biggest load of happy anniversary crap ever.

Western_Civ on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Romney just blew it!

davemason2k on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Go ahead and cut into your 2 minutes Barry- you ave no plans for the economy!

BettyRuth on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

checking in

Jeddite on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Obie looks nervous.

tru2tx on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Lehrer: Mr. President, you are so great, I’m going to ask a few softball questions but let’s just declare you the winner.

22044 on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Wait and see…

avgjo on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

lol…”roaring back”

Tim_CA on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

It’s Bush’s fault.

idesign on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

I’d like to thank my momma, and Elvis . . . . . OH . . . and my wife, Michelle.

listens2glenn on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

nothing new yet

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

More Obamaloney!

RedRedRice on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

GM losing 1/3 of its value is “roaring” back? Did he hear the question?

Zaggs on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Obama is stuttering

El_Terrible on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Auto Industry roaring back!!

FORD’s numbers were FLAT last month.

OPEL 2 plants shut down in Europe.

Varchild on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Obama expects to lose????? A year from now he’ll be in HI.

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

How the hell is this about jobs?

gophergirl on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

no lets not talk about where we have been….eff ewe

hillsoftx on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

I can’t believe how nervous I am.

tbrickert on October 3, 2012 at 9:03 PM

Ditto.

conservative pilgrim on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

All Obama said was something about his anniversary and I had to mute him already. I don’t know if I can listen to that moron for an hour and a half.

Night Owl on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Oh barf — Obama shouts out to Moochelle about their anniversary.

Q1: What are the major differences between the two of you on how you would create jobs?

Easy answer if Mitt wants it: I’ve actually created jobs, this President hasn’t.

Republican on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Housing foreclosures rising. Yep.
Forget the past four years.

HornetSting on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

education and training

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

obie….lost and confused without teleprompter…..:0

sicoit on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

BO ‘s lips are blue.

1nolibgal on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

I heard that Obama inherited the worst economy since the Clone Wars. I couldn’t verify it so does anyone else know for sure.

Mormon Doc on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Obama is saying basically..

America was born 8 years ago and we had the greatest depression 4 years ago..

History has been erased..

Electrongod on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Happy anniversary Moochelle. Next year we won’t be celebrating it in front of millions of people, because God willing we’ll be private citizens with no hope of destroying this nation again.

Gingotts on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

“Invest in education” DRINK!

Western_Civ on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Obama spent a quarter of his time talking about his wife and pandering to the crowd.

Vegi on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Bah humbug bammy

Scrumpy on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

sweety happy anniversary!

Scrumpy on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

you know he’s on the down low, though! ;)

texgal on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Everyone who is unemployed vote for Romney…!

d1carter on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Stammering, a little hesitant

TXUS on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

New sources of energy equal unicorn farts!

nitzsche on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Obama is failing..

BAD!

Electrongod on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

man is he doing awesom
-lsm

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Drink!!..:)

Dire Straits on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

…oh gawd…I gotta pee!

KOOLAID2 on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

5 TRILLION DEFICIT BECAUSE OF YOU!!!

HornetSting on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Obama slinging out the talking points, surprise surprise.

nobar on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Obama is not facing directly into the camera. I hope Romney has a better angle.

GaltBlvnAtty on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Obummer..dont talk about my past

malkinmania on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Mr. President, how do you differ on job creation.

Happy anniversary honey!

weaselyone on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Romney bigger flag pin.

Western_Civ on October 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Obama has a tiny… flag.

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

I hate this punk pig.

envycat on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

BUSH!

JPeterman on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

I see obama moving his lips, so i assume he’s lying. (I have volume off) :)

WashingtonsWake on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Stumbling Obama

TXUS on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

shoot, i need a refill on my drink already….*clink*

sicoit on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Obama seems nervous

flyboy777 on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Since B.O. is looking straight ahead, I think the teleprompter is out of sight of the Cspan cameras. He’s done that before.

bluefox on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

HOLY FREAK! MITTS HAIR IS AWESOME

El_Terrible on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Oh wow, Obama sucked there. Seriously, the no teleprompter is killing him. This is the greatest orator in the world?

the new aesthetic on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

i’m watching the “independent” focus group reactions on cnn. the line is flat so far.

renalin on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Invest in new energy … like SOLYNDRA.??

stenwin77 on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

congratulations….nice

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Man… Obama is talking …. fast! And he sounds really… nervous! Good.

thatsafactjack on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

ECONOMIC PATRIOTISM ! ?

listens2glenn on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

oh krap….romney suckin up and not attacking……jeeeezzzzzz

sicoit on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

BHO said nothing in response…

d1carter on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Mitt IS awesome!

Scrumpy on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Romney got a better laugh than did Obama.

GaltBlvnAtty on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Looking at the Colorado Undecided Voters tracking at the bottom… women and men LOVED Obama’s answer.

Republican on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

NO STUTTERING FROM MITT SO FAR

El_Terrible on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Here we go!!..Hello Everyone..:)

Dire Straits on October 3, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Dire Straits:*Waves…Hi Dude*!:)

canopfor on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

ok awkward anniversary greetings on both sides

Ronnie on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Economic patriotism = legalized rape

Western_Civ on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Good joke from Romney.

sharrukin on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Gosh, 0 sounds like a Republican … Until he got to Economic Patriotism – what does that mean?

Rosmerta on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Romney is telling reality..

Electrongod on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

I wish my hair was as good as Romney’s.

WashingtonsWake on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Obama nervous

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

I

can’t believe how nervous I am.

tbrickert on October 3, 2012 at 9:03 PM

Same here….Try some vino. It helps…

jimver on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Mitt is sounding smooth!

UncleFodder on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Go Romney!
Very nice!

HornetSting on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Now THIS is an answer!

gophergirl on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Electrongod on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

I agree..Obie didn’t say nothing..:)

Dire Straits on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

No loud cheers for Obama’s fake marriage?

bailey24 on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Romney looking strong

TXUS on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

5 basic parts…

not like bush

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

My god, he’s answering the question!

Zaggs on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

…oh gawd…I gotta pee!

KOOLAID2 on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

told you to do that before we left

Tim_CA on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Forget the past four years.

HornetSting on October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM

Easy for you, maybe.

Lanceman on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

SPECIFICS!

hillsoftx on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Mitt looks great! He looks very comfortable, too. He sounds comfortable! Alright!

China… if.. and when.. they cheat! lol! good one!

thatsafactjack on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

shoot romney don’t go into the same krap o does with all of his letters/phone calls,…..oh wait……. :) giterdon!!!!!!

sicoit on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

renalin on October 3, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Wow they got that after 3 minutes? Fail.

wargamer6 on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Nice Romney!

Scrumpy on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Romney same talking points! Oh noooooo

davemason2k on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Can you say “presidential”?

the new aesthetic on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

First flatter the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and then gut them…

d1carter on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

nice response by Mitt on anniversary.

Great points by Mitt.

conservative pilgrim on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Obamas Socialisim Speil,on Patriotism sumpin…..

canopfor on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

c-span feed is down

workingclass artist on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Romney wins! I’m done. Y’all have fun now!

texgal on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

there we go

Tim_CA on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Obama total filler.

Did he say “helpin’ bidness”?

Romney talks energy, trade, training, balanced business, and small business.

BuckeyeSam on October 3, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Comment pages: 1 3 4 5 6 7 46