Mitt Romney won the debate. Does it matter?

Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama  participate in their first debate at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, 3 October 2012 The Obama team wants to pass off Mitt Romney's win as one of style over substance

The first trial is over and the jury's verdict is clear. But the judge's sentence is not.

Conservatives continually accuse the main American media outlets (Fox News excepted) of being in President Obama's corner.

But there was a rare agreement over last night's debate: Mitt was a hit.

What we don't yet know is what the American people make of that verdict and whether it shifts any votes, or enough to matter.

'Devoid of honesty'

The Obama team aren't trying to pretend their man had the best of it. They are claiming only a victory of substance over style. Their tactic is to dismiss the debate as so much theatre.

Campaign strategist David Axelrod said Mr Romney "may win the Oscar for his performance, but he won't win the presidency for his performance". He added the act "was devoid of honesty".

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But imagine you are undecided, you don't care much about ideology, but want some one who looks like a vigorous, motivated leader”

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He said the campaign would take a long hard look at last evening before the next debate in New York, in two weeks time, and make judgements about "where we draw our lines and how we use our time".

It sounds as it they are considering challenging Mr Romney a lot more.

The president himself told an audience in Denver: "When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney."

"But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favour the wealthy. The fellow onstage last night said he didn't know anything about that."

The tactic is clearly to dismiss Mr Romney as an actor playing a part, in a briefly successful role, whose performance is a fiction.

Moving the undecideds

It might work. But the debates could work in persuading the very people Mr Romney needs to convert. The debates are, of course, performance, but body language, tone and style can matter.

The bottom line was that Mr Romney seemed not only more animated, but more motivated; Mr Obama seemed lacklustre, unexcited, even a bit bored.

Now, most people know how they are going to vote, and they aren't going to change because of those sort of vague judgements. But imagine you are undecided, you don't care much about ideology, but want someone who looks like a vigorous, motivated leader.

Mr Romney on the stump, in the adverts, hardly fits the bill. Last night's incarnation was much more convincing.

The next opinion polls will be important and will tell us whether debates can make a difference.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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US Presidential Election 2012


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  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    If sacrifices are to be made to address the American deficit & debt, which candidate do you think will do his best to assure we ALL have a share in those sacrifices, working together?

    Or do you believe that Romney has some magic formula (we called it "supply side economics" once) that will spare YOU and dump the whole burden on some OTHER guy?

    Together, or every man for himself?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Mitt Romney promised the moon but in reality his agenda is only serving the billionaires. Mittens lies (read smoke and mirrors) to hide what he really wants to do (read eliminate all tax credits for the middle class) so he can provide a tax cut for the "job providers" (read the billionaires funding his campaign). A total loss for the average American but the rich should be happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I have never seen so many fatuous comments, and ones that expose the bias and lack of understanding that most Americans have. Calling Obama a socialist is as ludicrous as saying that the free market will decide and always works. A civilised society has to provide a safety net for people that are unfortunate enough to be out of work or sick. Obama inherited an economy in bad shape and has done OK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Romney can't get a fair hearing in the largely left wing media which dominate today. Like the Conservatives here. The debate is always couched in left wing politics. e.g. on public spending it always starts from the angle that public spending is good (Labour), and any cuts to public spending are therefore bad (Tory). The BBC are always there to howl down any debate over such issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Mitt Romney during the first Presidential debate made me feel he was more Walter Mitty promising everything to everyone...than he was...Mitt Romney.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Mitt Romney was confident, and gave the American people hope. He may not have told the absolute truth, but I doubt if Obama told the absolute truth. Mitt Romney has a successful health care track record since he was a successful governor in Mass. Obama's health plan really can't work in a large and diverse America. Individual states need to be directly involved in health care with fed watch dogs.

  • Comment number 98.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    You Brits can't be nearly as frustrated about our idiot voters as we Americans are. In the last election they reversed the names of obama and McCain and said what they were for and against and every one of the obama supporters said they were for him, despite saying they hated the things that "McCain" stood for. And later, they STILL voted for him anyway! And they'll do it again without jobs too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    We do not need Mr Leher or anyone else to preside during a debate. I also believe both sides need to have some tit for tat, checking each others facts. Instead, the president want's to continue the debate by calling the Governor a liar, whereas President Obama throws a fit. No wonder Romney is presidential.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    “Mitt Romney won the debate. Does it matter?”
    I would think so, losing the debate might have ended any chance he had.

    “They are claiming only a victory of substance over style.”

    That’s their claim. Unfortunately for them, Romney came off much better all around than Obama did. Obama trying to make it up a day late equals a dollar short.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    I notice some decry the debate is more showmanship than substance.
    Get real.
    The luminaries running the USA networks are mainly the Ivy League crowd.
    Same with BBC, Oxbridge types take charge.

    Only shows that they have gotten it right, put a man to show-off his substance and his substance crumble when the man’s a poor-show.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Curt Carpenter (86),

    "... The fundamental issue of this election is unchanged: together? Or "every man for himself?""

    As that is not the fundamental issue of this election ...

    You remain mistaken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    To No Dreams...
    Good name, because if you have been dreaming about Obama winning another term.....not going to happen.
    Romney is a smart, honest, natural born leader. He will be the best thing that has happened to America in quite a while.
    It will happen. Watch....

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    72. Jay

    In reality, keeping all emotions aside, many GOP "leaders" (sic) live in their own cocoon of white supremacy.

    Come on, Jay. Calling them racists is just your own racism. No one denies that race is still a factor in the US for both blacks and whites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Curt Carpenter (86),

    "I was as bored as the President appeared to be ..."

    Then it is likely that you too would have come up short.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I was as bored as the President appeared to be -- mostly because Romney is pushing the same tired supply-side economics that failed so totally under Reagan. Even conservatives ought to have enough sense to ask themselves -- how much of that Reagan prosperity "trickled down" into their pockets LAST time?

    The fundamental issue of this election is unchanged: together? Or "every man for himself?"

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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