The first Obama-Romney debate turned into a pretty clear picture of the differing viewpoints of the candidates, with the most fierce exchange on taxes and Medicare. It is surprising that the President decided on the low-key, cool approach, while Romney came out energetically on fire. His energy made him more animated, which gave him something that has eluded him for months – command presence. Whether the “energy” contrast will change minds is still a question mark.
Debates have rarely changed the outcome of national elections, but they do offer a clear picture of how people react under pressure. The best picture part of the event was the expressions from both candidates as they listened to one another, trying to look pleasant and control their anger. What a great act that was!
The difficult part of the night was the lack of forceful moderation. Jim Lehrer is a real pro but he lost control of his debate, allowing the candidates, especially Romney, to trample him with interruptions and demand for time. Moderating is not that hard. You set rules, shut off the candidates when they won’t shut up, and stay in control. I’m sure he would be the first to tell you that he needed to exert control.
All-in-all, it was a better than average debate, with two significant events:
Mitt Romney tried to move to the political center. And Barack Obama decided to be risk-free and surprisingly low-key.