Who Won the Debate Last Night: Obama Gets a TKO


After the Democratic convention, Mitt Romney’s campaign was falling behind the president because many of the policies that he put forward have not been popular with the public at large. His unpopularity took another hit after the release of a video in which he had made disparaging remarks about 47% of the population. Romney, however, used the first presidential debate to completely overhaul his image not only by abandoning his unpopular stances but by embracing new positions.

This new makeover, coupled with the president’s reluctant to challenge him more during the debate, allowed Romney to breathe new life into his campaign. To regain the lost momentum, President Barack Obama will need a two-pronged strategy. First, he will need to do a much better job at presenting his impressive record to the public and also give them a much better sense of what’s at stake in the election. Second, the president should not merely seek to highlight false assertions that Romney will make but he will need to use his proposed policies and shifting positions to redefine him during the debate.

The performance of Romney during the past debate was another reminder that the former governor is not wedded to policy positions. Thus, if the president tries to refute all his evasions during a 90-minute debate, it would be a fool’s errand. The most effective strategy against a candidate whose positions tend to align with the audience he is addressing is to build a more thematic case against him. Hence, fact-checking Romney should not be a goal in itself but a mean to a well-defined end, which is that the former CEO is a candidate that will do anything and adopt any position on any given day in order to get to the White House.

On this point, Romney’s record is clear. Although his political stances tend to be constantly in a state of flux, they are always in harmony with the constituency whose votes he needs to get elected. While he was running for Governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-choice and vowed that he would be a stronger supporter of gay rights than then-Senator Ted Kennedy. Those views reflected those of the Bay State residents. During his run in the Republican presidential primary, a new Romney had emerged. The political views of this newly minted Romney have meshed perfectly on abortion, gay rights and a host of other issues with Tea Party activists and conservatives who vote in the Republican primary. In fact, to make himself more palatable with those conservatives, he barely mentioned the health care law that he passed as a governor because it has been the model for Obamacare, which conservatives oppose vehemently. Knowing, however, he would need to convince more moderate voters to vote for him in order to win the presidential election, he used the first presidential debate to recast himself as a moderate by embracing parts of Obamacare (allowing people with pre-existing conditions to get health insurance). He proceeded to emphasize policies that he was previously against, such as the need for more teachers and the virtue of regulations.

Although he has been criticized for his lack of political skills, Romney knows how to make a sales pitch convincingly. After all, Romney was in the business of persuading investors to invest in his many ventures while he was at Bain Capital, the company he founded and led. In the debate, it is important for the president to sketch out a portrait of Romney as secretive and a “severely  conservative" individual who is trying to camouflage his political views; but he would be beholden to his conservative base if he were to get elected.

The president will need a strong debate performance to regain not just momentum but to retake control of the narrative of the campaign, which he lost following the first presidential debate. Romney has shown himself to be a skilled debater largely because he could “discard troublesome positions like an empty soda can” as I pointed out in a previous article. Therefore, he has demonstrated that he could moonwalk from his political stances effortlessly. Although he could moonwalk like the master himself, Romney would never be a thriller because in the eyes of many (even many of his supporters) he would continue to be regarded as someone who is in a class by himself when it comes to being a political opportunist.

Topic: Town meeting format including foreign and domestic policy

The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have 2 minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.

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Live Updates

This is my final take : Obama totally dominated Romney during the debate

10:40 PM Wow... if there is ever a TKO in a presidential debate, this is one.

10:27 PM Romney just labeled teachers, firefighters, and police officers as government workers

10:24 PM Romney was against the firearms ban before he was against it indeed.

Romney basically said that he was a bystander in the passing of the gun bill while he was governor.

10:17: Romney has been revealed as a craven politician and someone who would be willing to politicize a tragedy for political gains.  This is the moment where Romney political opportunism is revealed for everybody to see.

9:59 PM Romney supports self-deportation

9:51 PM Romney is indeed more extreme than Bush; for one, he wants illegal to self deport and embraces the voucher system

9:45 PM So Now Bain Capital is a small business... This is rich even for Mitt Romney

9:29 PM Romney can you share your secret knowledge with the public on how you are going to make the tax plan adds up

9:25 PM Which reductions would  you eliminate Romney, the voters want to know

9:23 PM President Obama is on fire tonight

9:11 PM: Yes he did say coal kills

9:04 PM excellent summation of what the president's record is and what he intends to do in the next four years

8:48 PM Folks it is almost time, get your popcorn ready!!!

8:06 They are ready to rumble....


7:14  Mitt Romney Moonwalking from previously held positions


5:50 PM Romney has finally provided the detailed of his tax plan (Warning: Do not laugh too


5:34 PM  In his article, Mark Leibovich described the role that Paul Ryan believes he would play in a Romney administration: Ryan thinks that he would be the Dick Cheney of economic


5:08 PM According to Ezra Klein, part time jobs were not responsible for the 7.8 drop in the


2:43 PM The President is Ready for the debate