Green Room

Now that Debate 1 is history, out come the excuses

posted at 3:51 pm on October 4, 2012 by

Well that didn’t take long. The morning after a debate on the economy in which the president was schooled by his businessman opponent, liberals took time out to feel their pain and lick their wounds. It just wasn’t supposed to be like this.

But the period of mourning was short lived. By early afternoon, the excuses began to take shape and find their way into headlines. Former vice president and current certifiable maniac Al Gore complained that the mile-high altitude worked in Romney’s favor and against Obama. “Obama,” he groused on his TV network Current, “arrived in Denver at 2 p.m. today—just a few hours before the debate started. Romney did his debate prep in Denver. When you go to 5,000 feet, and you only have a few hours to adjust, I don’t know.”

Jim Lehrer, who moderated the debate, also drew some red flags from critics on the left who apparently miss having the NFL replacement refs to kick around. “Lehrer sucked,” Bill Maher noted tersely, although I don’t think he was far off in his critique. Lehrer, who is 78, seemed a tad feeble, his voice reedy, suggesting that maybe it is time to retire his number. But Maher’s beef seems to reside in Lehrer’s cutting the president off when he had exceeded his time limit, which is one of the few functions Lehrer carried out according to Hoyle.

The DNC released an ad suggesting that Romney wasn’t nice enough to the president, which should resonate with that huge section of the electorate who vote based on “niceness” and who are convinced by the ad. The National Journal declared, without sensing a need to explain what they meant, that “the deck was stacked against Obama.” Which raises the question of whether, apart from his having the incumbent advantage, Obama’s vaunted rhetorical skills shouldn’t have stacked the deck in his favor.

And finally, there is the Obama campaign, which has a different spin on last night’s debate depending on who you ask. Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter grudgingly conceded that Romney won that debate but only “on preparation and style points.” Chief honcho David Axelrod was unequivocal in his view that Romney won, even though he quizzically added, “I don’t see us adding huge amounts of additional prep time” for the next debate.

Sounds like it should be fun.

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There really is a “Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” kind of desperation to today’s spin by the Democrats and their media supporters. Obama gave them virtually nothing to work with, and unless Marion Barry can really ramp up that moral outrage he tweeted about last night over Mitt’s plans to cut funding for Big Bird, there’s nothing blatantly obvious they can attack Romney with, either.

As a result, you get a cornucopia of excuses, hoping one of them will catch lightning in a bottle and become the official talking point line. My bet — since he’s the guy who’s running the show — is they’ll go with Axelrod’s “Mitt won because he lied about the numbers” claim, since that allows Team Obama and others in the media simply to concoct their own figures again and play math games to prove Mitt’s supposedly wrong. But also expect any positive number from Friday’s September unemployment report to be seized by the same people to show that we’re on the cusp of a boom that will make the Reagan years look like a depression, and that this also invalidates everything Mitt Romney said Wednesday night, and anything else he’s ever said about the economy.

jon1979 on October 4, 2012 at 4:09 PM

they’ll go with Axelrod’s “Mitt won because he lied about the numbers” claim

You may be right, but it’s unlikely to convince all the undecdieds who decided last night that Romney was their guy. Obama came off as a wet sponge, and while debates are only a facet of a presidential race, I have a feeling that the image of him many came away with is going to having staying power.

Howard Portnoy on October 4, 2012 at 4:19 PM

Stephanie Cutter grudgingly conceded that Romney won that debate but only “on preparation and style points.”

She forgot that Romney also won on content, which is why they are kookier than normal today.

gonnjos on October 4, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Yeah, the Obama campaign won’t add much prep time. Bammie will just go hang out with Bubba Clinton in Chappaqua, down the road apiece from the Hemptstead, NY site of the second debate, and maybe they’ll take in a Broadway show together. Mooch will be so p-o-ed.

stukinIL4now on October 4, 2012 at 5:21 PM

….which is one of the few functions Lehrer carried out according to Hoyle.

There’s a reference most people are going to look at twice before they get it.

BillH on October 4, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Howard, I agree with much of what you said in your post, but with one notable exception, to wit:

“But Maher’s beef seems to reside in Lehrer’s cutting the president off when he had exceeded his time limit, which is one of the few functions Lehrer carried out according to Hoyle.”

If you go back and actually check the response times Lehrer “allotted” to each of the candidates, you will very quickly realize that he was regularly giving the President a little extra time before interjecting with his little grunts to let each of them know their two minutes were up.

Just about every time the two minutes were up for Romney, Lehrer immediately began interjecting and interrupting him with his little grunts. But on more than one occasion, he actually let Obama go on for a full three minutes before interrupting him in any way. I timed a few of them when I noticed the discrepancy.

The best general proof of this is that Obama ended up with slightly more that four extra minutes of actual talking time than Romney did.

So, Jim Lehrer really did not play it “according to Hoyle.” He gave Obama a time advantage.

See, this statement in the Daily Mail, for example:

“The challenger’s dominance came despite his having four minutes less talking time than the incumbent – Mr Romney spoke for 38 minutes and 32 seconds, while Mr Obama held the spotlight for 42 minutes and 50 seconds.”

Whether Lehrer did that intentionally or not, he ended up giving the President an overall time advantage, and it still didn’t work for the guy!

Trochilus on October 5, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Another example of Lehrer’s inherent uneven treatment of the candidates occurred very early in the debate at the end of the first segment. Obama won first coin toss, so he went first. But after a few exchanges, Lehrer attempted to end that segment with Obama going last, and Mitt had to politely interrupt and remind him that since the President had gone first, he was entitled to the last statement in that segment.

Trochilus on October 5, 2012 at 11:19 AM

What is true for Baseball, Mr. President is true for Politics…

Don’t take MY word for it, just listen to at least 2 of your own campaign supporters.

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