Instead of watching the presidential debate last night, I opted to watch the Giants clobber the Cardinals in baseball (for my foreign readers) and the Bears win a defensive battle over the Lions (in American “football”). I like sports when the games feel meaningful, i. e. they have high stakes, which is why I don’t get interested in pro-baseball or pro-basketball until the playoffs. Two many games, each with too little meaning. As far as I’m concerned the regular seasons are just a very long sorting process to see who really counts. I’d rather watch curling if the two teams are battling for a gold medal.
I’m drawn to the competition of the presidential race even though I deplore its nature. Unlike sports, though, while watching this game, it is not clear who is winning overall, or even in the case of the debate last night.
Political pundits and pollsters have analyzed the campaigns to death, but nobody knows for sure who will win. Nate Silver, who seems the most sophisticated of the poll watchers (he is linked in my Blogroll to the left), gives Obama a 70% winning chance today, so I’m glad my money is on the president. But I don’t feel completely confident.
This morning cable pundits and columnists have post mortemed the debate aplenty, with all sorts of analyses as to who won and by how much. The predominant reaction seems to be that Obama won the debate, though most Romney backers seem to think otherwise. The consensus there was Romney did what he needed to do to maintain the momentum that began by winning the first debate. Rather than appearing unreasonably pugnacious on topics like the Benghazi tragedy, he spent more time saying “me too, but better” to Obama’s policies. To his defenders, he “looked presidential” and that “he can handle the role.”
To Ron Reagan on MSNBC, Romney’s comments were so “banal” that if “he wore a sash and a tiara he could run for Miss America.” However valid Reagan’s points may have been, that sarcastically over the top characterization detracts from his criticisms. At least for me and I think there are many like me. Obama was sarcastically dismissive a time or two as well.
In recent posts I have dwelt on the “undecided’s, those swing voters who seem to go back and forth like a pendulum. If enough of them swing the same way in the right states on election day, Romney might surprise Nate Silver and me by winning. It is with them in mind, that I’m not so sure Obama won the debate. At least he didn’t win over Wendy, a previous undecided who now leans towards Romney.
Wendy has been used as an example “undecided” on FOX. She is an articulate, likeable woman with four children, seeming to me in her 30s. In announcing her post-debate swing towards Romney she said: “He just has an idea of what the economy needs…. nothing has gotten better. Everything’s gotten worse.” Catching my attention even more was her saying: “Obama came across as a bully.”
I would not say “bully” but to me Obama was too often dismissive to the point of condescentional overkill. In response to a Romney criticism, the president said: “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916,” Obama said. “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed.”
That comment has gone viral and zealous Obama backers probably love it, but they aren’t the much coveted swing voters, one of whom has just swung towards Romney. While Obama had a big lead in the polls with women voters, the gap has narrowed significantly in recent weeks. Perhaps this is an expression that even more than reproductive rights, equal pay and the like, many women are concerned with the sluggish economy and how a candidate comports himself. Handling the economy is the one issue in which Romney regularly rates higher in the polls. Handling oneself as a gentleman (or as a good father) counts especially with women as far as I can tell.
If many undecided’s cast their ballots while imagining a sarcastic, bullying Obama and a laughing hyena running mate, especially women but men, too………? Well, I don’t like to think about it.