Romney’s trouncing of Obama in debate sets Gallup record: 52 points
posted at 5:56 pm on October 8, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
The flood of excuses for why the president performed as abysmally as he did in the first presidential debate last Wednesday has risen up to the firmament … of higher education. In The New Yorker’s now-infamous cover story—the illustration for which shows the debate stage with an empty chair at Obama’s lectern—editor David Remnick samples the opinions of “Obama’s old friends” from academe (h/t James Taranto).
Included are Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and another teacher, Christopher Edley. Tribe explains Romney’s rout of Obama by insisting that the president’s “instincts and talents have never included going for an opponent’s jugular. That’s just not who he is or ever has been.” (Tribe’s right. Obama’s style is more taking shots at his opponents behind their back, snidely ridiculing them in front of crowds of well-wishers, knowing that they are comfortably out of retaliatory striking range.)
Edley’s take is more flattering. “The reason I hate campaigns is that being right on the substance isn’t good enough,” he says, adding, “I admire [Obama] for caring more about the substance than the tactics … We know that Obama skews cerebral.” (Maybe so, though you’d never know it from his unteleprompted syntax. The Examiner quotes the president as starting off an apology to his Hollywood supporters with the observation, “Everybody here are [sic] just incredible professionals.”)
The excuse makers aren’t limited to Obama’s old pals, or at least not those who have a personal acquaintanceship with him. The New York Times offered up its two cents on Sunday, writing:
Mr. Obama does not like debates to begin with, aides have long said, viewing them as media-driven gamesmanship … Mr. Obama made clear to advisers that he was not happy about debating Mr. Romney, whom he views with disdain. It was something to endure, rather than an opportunity, aides said.
John Podhoretz quotes that passage from the Times piece, then states:
On the face of it, this is absurd: If [Obama] views Romney with disdain, why wouldn’t he relish the opportunity to crush him in a debate? Debates aren’t dates or dinner parties or business meetings; they are contests, and Obama is a very competitive person. Why would he only ‘endure’ one, given how utterly wonderful he is? As for ‘media-driven gamesmanship,’ what does Obama call going on David Letterman’s show, or Jay Leno’s, both of which he seems to enjoy mightily?
This Herculean joint effort to explain away the events of last Wednesday would not be necessary unless Obama’s thumping was of heroic proportions. A new Gallup survey indicates just how heroic it was. The poll asked, “Regardless of which candidate you happen to support, who do you think did the better job in last/Wednesday night’s debate?” Among all debate watchers, 72% answered “Romney,” while 20% said “Obama.” Among independents, the margin was a point greater, with only 19% expressing the opinion that Obama did better. The difference—52%–is the largest in Gallup history!
Other polls show the effect of outcome on voter preferences. Today’s Real Clear Politics average has Romney trailing by half a percentage point, 47.9$ to 47.4%.
The question for the Democrats is what they do next. Podhoretz repeats the party line, which is that Obama will do better in the next debate, then asks, “But how? By calling Romney a liar? Does the Obama team think Romney will have no effective response to that accusation in the next two debates?”
It will indeed be interesting to see what happens next.
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