12 Oct 2012

Assessing Last Night’s Debate

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Amusingly, partisan commentators from both sides are claiming victory. So the way to tell who really won is to check what the kind of commentator who can be counted to be found jumping on the winning bandwagon is saying. Let’s look at Peggy Noonan‘s analysis:

There were fireworks all the way, and plenty of drama. Each candidate could claim a win in one area or another, but by the end it looked to me like this: For the second time in two weeks, the Democrat came out and defeated himself. In both cases the Republican was strong and the Democrat somewhat disturbing.

Another way to say it is the old man tried to patronize the kid and the kid stood his ground. The old man pushed, and the kid pushed back.

Last week Mr. Obama was weirdly passive. Last night Mr. Biden was weirdly aggressive, if that is the right word for someone who grimaces, laughs derisively, interrupts, hectors, rolls his eyes, browbeats and attempts to bully. He meant to dominate, to seem strong and no-nonsense. Sometimes he did—he had his moments. But he was also disrespectful and full of bluster. “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy!” he snapped at one point. It was an echo of Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle, in 1988. But Mr. Quayle, who had compared himself to Kennedy, had invited the insult. Mr. Ryan had not. It came from nowhere. Did Mr. Biden look good? No, he looked mean and second-rate. He meant to undercut Mr. Ryan, but he undercut himself. His grimaces and laughter were reminiscent of Al Gore’s sighs in 2000—theatrical, off-putting and in the end self-indicting.

Mr. Ryan was generally earnest, fluid, somewhat wonky, confident. He occasionally teetered on the edge of glibness and sometimes fell off. …

I have just realized the problem with the debate: it was the weird distance between style and content, and the degree to which Mr. Biden’s style poisoned his content.

In terms of content—the seriousness and strength of one’s positions and the ability to argue for them—the debate was probably a draw, with both candidates having strong moments. But in terms of style, Mr. Biden was so childishly manipulative that it will be surprising if independents and undecideds liked what they saw.

National Democrats keep confusing strength with aggression and command with sarcasm. Even the latter didn’t work for Mr. Biden. The things he said had the rhythm and smirk of sarcasm without the cutting substance.

And so the Romney-Ryan ticket emerged ahead. Its momentum was neither stopped nor slowed and likely was pushed forward.

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Another way to tell who’s winning is to watch the random omens. For instance, today Lindsay Lohan endorsed Romney.

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One Feedback on "Assessing Last Night’s Debate"

SDD

I was disappointed that Ryan didn’t rise above all the detail swapping. If Romney/Ryan is to win this election, they need to simplify the choice for the people: This is about whether you want a bigger government that takes more of the money you earn and spends it the way it sees fit or a smaller government that thinks you know best how to spend your money and tries to get out of the way of your trying to achieve.

We are at the proverbial fork in the road. If we make the wrong choice, the arguments over what you’re going to have for dinner tonight aren’t going to matter much.



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