Did Obama blow the first debate?

What do you think?

I was planning on watching it, but I was a little late, so I switched it on to hear the cadence of Obama’s speech. My stomach sank and I switched over to something oddly comforting about kidnapping. As the kidnapping story was replaced by one of murder, I’d switch back for a moment, feel very uncomfortable and go back to the murder.

I think what I heard was the sound of a kind of clutching, though I doubt it came across as that, given what I heard afterwards from some pretty angry commentators. I know of two accounts of clutching, a phenomenon with which I’ve had at times too much familiarity. One account is sort of neurophysical: for various reasons, one’s brain is giving warning signals: now is not the time to try anything new; stick to old routines.

Another account says one clutching has lost focus on the goal and is instead focusing on one’s own performance. One’s not focused on getting the ball over the net and is instead focusing on how one is holding the racquet, etc.

So what do you think?

9 thoughts on “Did Obama blow the first debate?

  1. I hate agreeing with you. He also spent a lot of time with his head bent down and he was clinching his jaw in disagreement. Our president did not bring his A-game into the debate last night. But over all I thought the entire debate was dull, and neither of them did a spectacular job speaking.

  2. Yes, he did blow it. I don’t know why, but he was barely in the room (although interestingly when I heard clips on the radio this morning he sounded much better. Nixon to Romney’s Kennedy?) It is annoying that Romney is being declared the winner on style not substance, since as far as the content of what he was saying, it was as vapid and misleading as ever. And his “zingers” all sounded churlish But Obama didn’t do anything to improve the shining hour. The best thing you can say is that Jim Lehrer was worse. Gwen Ifill was robbed.

  3. Couldn’t watch. It was giving me agita. Went into another room and read Fagle’s Odyssey. Made me feel much better.

  4. Margaret is right on. Lehrer was a non-moderator, and a pathetic asker of questions. Obama gave a halting performance. However, I do think there might be a silver lining. Romney lied and dissimulated to an astonishing degree — the one claim that was instantly reported was that he claimed that his health care plan would allow for preexisting condition coverage, but after the debate his spinner corrected that claim and said it would depend on state plans. So long as the press keeps up the fact checking (which they do seem to be at least at the major papers), and the Obama campaign puts up quickly ads which demonstrate that Romney is inconsistent and so untrustworthy, the bad performance can be in the past, and the substance can win the day.

    Obama’s best line was about the unknowns in Romney’s plan (Are they silent about the details because they will be good for the middle class?). That will be the ad strategy going forward, juxtaposing Romney’s own words in September and in early October against him. I

  5. Hm, I think I’d disagree with what seems to be a common opinion here. It is true that Obama looked tired all the way through, talked with “uh”-s and “mm”-s in every sentence, and so forth. What his appearance made me to think was “After all, we don’t know how many death warrants for the military he signed right before heading into the debate”.

    But I felt it became better towards the end. He offered a serious and unapologetic defense of the healthcare law, embracing the label “Obamacare” as something to be proud of. Before that, he explained the gulf between him and Romney who would not take 1 dollar of more revenue for $10 in cuts, etc. etc. I do think Obama might have done better, and I think his _positions_ might have been more progressive than they are as well, but I think he managed to get some of the most important points across.

  6. Stacy, your link to that excellent article took me on to James Fallows and then Conway’s presentation of two different views of the debate:

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