Quick thoughts on last week’s Presidential Debate

Last week, I was home taking care of the kids, and had TiVo‘d the Presidential Debate, figuring I’d watch it after homework was done and kids were asleep.  Like most, I thought Obama had this thing sewed up, and I expected the debate to be a low risk affair in which Obama rose above the fray and continued his glide path to a re-election.

As I was getting kids into PJs and checking homework, I did glance at Twitter as the debate was going on.  Romney was clearly winning, based purely on the Twittersphere. I later did get to watch the debate.  3 quick observations:

This wasn’t a debate, it was a performance review meeting.  I think this was one of the two most damaging things about the night for Obama.  Listening to Romney’s tone and approach, along with Obama’s lack of fight and rebuttal, left me with the impression that Romney was a manager telling his employee that his performance wasn’t making the grade and he needed to be fired.  Romney’s tone, approach, and manner are very similar to how a professional manager goes about telling someone that they aren’t making the grade and need to be fired.  It’s specific, thorough, direct.  Obama basically assented on most of these critiques, leaving the impression that he basically agreed.

Mute the audio, and forget which of the two was President, then ask yourself which one is President.  This is the second big wound the Obama campaign took, in my view.  If you buy into the Malcolm Gladwell concept of Blink, then you believe that people make snap decisions based on very quick impressions of people.  This can be applied to hiring, to whether you like someone, etc.  I think if  you were able to set aside whichever candidate you favored, you turned off the audio, and you just watch both candidates for basically any 30 second segment, you’d probably conclude that Romney was the more Presidential, whatever that means.  This can’t be verified, but I do think that this is a big impact.  For the first time, people saw a picture that was so different and so jarring.

Complaining about a moderator is like an NFL coach blaming the refs for a loss, it’s a waste of time and it just reinforces that you’re losing.  During the debate, the big surprise was Obama being so flat and unprepared to debate.  Post debate, the big surprise, to me at least, was how much criticism was heaped on Jim Lehrer, the moderator.  To me, this is like complaining about the refs in football.  It sets the wrong tone.  I recommend Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s approach.  Whenever we lose, he says basically, “We lost.  We accept that.  We are not happy about it.  It is what it is and we accept that.  We have a lot of work to do with urgency.”  And that’s that.  He moves on.  That’s the recommended path.  Don’t spin when it makes you sound like a sore loser.

A final conclusion… As a free markteer, I generally favor competition.  We now have some in this race.

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