Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Long and Winding the White House (part 3)

Welcome to part 3 of The Long and Winding the White House.  Follow the links if you would like to read part 1 or part 2.

Last night brought us the latest milestone in what is becoming a fascinating campaign to watch - the second Presidential debate. President Obama and Governor Romney squared off in a town hall-style debate, each with their own goals.

For President Obama the objective was to put in a stronger performance than the widely criticized one in Denver. A strong performance was seen as crucial given the momentum Romney had been enjoying since the first debate; momentum which had eaten considerably into Obama's lead and in the process was making the race extremely close.

For Governor Romney, the objective was to hold onto the initiative and continue to make progress on selling himself to voters. He needed to build on the success of Denver and enable people to credibly see him as President.

In many respects, both men accomplished their objectives in a debate which the President appeared to win. Obama delivered a performance which should re-energize his base (and ideally support ongoing fundraising) and which more succinctly drew sharp distinctions between the two candidates.

Romney, although considered by many to be the loser, gave a competent performance (with a few exceptions - see below). He was at his best when laying out his argument as to why Americans were worse off - an argument which could prove decisive in those states hardest hit by the recession.

Polling over the next several days will tell us more about how Americans feel heading into the final debate on Monday and then the homestretch. But as you anxiously await those polls, here are some things on my mind after last night:

1. What did women think? The debate has put women front and centre as the demographic that could hold the keys to the White House.

After last night, I am not sure whether to wonder if Romney will get women voters, or whether to wonder does this guy actually get women voters? Some of his comments last night - binders, planned parenthood, and reminiscing about his female chief of staff leaving work to cook for her family in response to a question on pay equity - felt like they were from left field. Or 1950.

2. Bipartisanship and the Romney record in Massachusetts.  See, if his record was so stellar why: (a) did he veto over 800 bills as Governor - hardly an example of bipartisanship; (b) does he not have a hope of winning in the state? The ironic thing is that the one area in which he demonstrated a real openness to bipartisanship is on the one accomplishment he avoids talking about - Romneycare.

3. Libya. On a subject on which Obama should have been on the ropes, Romney conspired to drop the ball (albeit aided by the moderator). But rest assured, this issue is not going away and it could well be what Romney leads with on Monday in the foreign policy debate.

It will be interesting to see to what extent foreign policy has an impact in what should be almost exclusively an economy-driven election.

4. Which Obama is the real Obama - last night's version or that fellow who was on stage in Denver? And which one will we see in Florida on Monday? The juxtaposition between the two debates was actually striking. There was a sharpness, where in Denver we saw rambling. There were clear, thoughtful messages.  And importantly, the President was engaged and (particularly through the last half) engaging.

5. The Clinton narrative is now the Obama narrative. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. The Obama campaign is essentially now a road-show of the Clinton speech from the DNC in September. And I mean that in a good way.

I recently read an article on the relationship between the Clintons and Obama, including the preparation of that speech. This was not an Obama campaign speech delivered by the former President. This was Clinton looking to set the terms of the election and frame the voting booth question.

And now you hear those lines he and his advisors crafted being spoken by the President on the hustings, on that stage last night and by a host of supporters in spin rooms and in the media.


So, what next? My thinking is that last night essentially re-set the campaign and effectively put us on course for a roller-coaster, 3-week election for the Presidency.  I think Romney's momentum has been blunted such that we are left with a campaign which either could win.

Governor Romney has shown us over the past two weeks that he can win. President Obama showed us last night that he can fight. We have one more debate before we enter the homestretch. This will be interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment?

Canadian Blogosphere