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 Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    President Obama is publicly calling Mitt Romney a liar and many posters on here are mimicking their hero and repeating the slur. I anticipate the Foreign Policy debate will be damning for Obama when Romney challenges his lies about the death of the US Ambassador in Libya. People died - Obama lied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    It is widely accepted among many political pundits that Obama did a miscalculation by extending his hands of friendship & cooperation to the skin headed GOP leadership. He wasted valuable time & also majority in both Senate & Congress. He could have achieved far more in his first term if he handled GOP as he did in his last 2 years- after he & his advisers became clear abt the GOP game plan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Honorable, commendable politicians (and anyone for that matter) debate issues and policies. When you enter the realm of personal attacks, you begin to see the truly vile individuals. Romney sliced and diced Obama's politics, but never crossed that line. Obama should be ashamed of his constant, childish attacks on Romney's integrity and character, which ironically shows Obama's own weaknesses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Romney's perceived "win" (by media & GOP) should make its supporters worried. It's Mitt's classic flipflop that baffled Obama.
    If I prepare for an interview in Colgate. The interviewer there tells me, "No, U r wrong. We never made tooth paste". How would you expect me to react?

    There should be pre-debate session. There Obama can confirm what is Mitt's latest policy & data for upcoming debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    # 115:
    I said the TRUTH, and not Mitt/GOP style, of course. Lets examine the track record of GOP as a WHOLE and many OF its leaders in recent times.

    There are 96 BLACK Democrat Congressmen in modern era (since 1929) but only 5 from Republican side.

    I'm not interested to know if Obama will win (that's sure), but more interested if we can remove GOP from majority in Congress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Okay, we have the lefty point of view - how about a neutral point of view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Romneys rough and tumble style kept Obama off balance and the narrator looking like a college ref. trying to officiate an NFL Game. Good fight Governor, if you werenot going to mess with seniors by giving them a voucher instead of keeping social security as is, and repealing a long time needed affordable healthcare law, You might have had a shot at the victors cup. (not this time though)!

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    These mor(m)on GOP leadership need to understand that their religious fundamentalist & racist supremacy attitude will not give them much acceptance to many sensible, truly educated Americans (Black, Whites & Browns) of 21st century.That will not give much success in number game either- for long. This yr birth of minority baby is more than majority Whites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    There are 96 Dem Congressmen in "modern era" (since 1929) while there was only 5 frm Republican side. 3 Dem,1 GOP black senator.
    GOP was way more tolerant in "reconstruction era" (1868 to early 1900s) with 21 Black Congressmen.

    Does it not indicate something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    @ AndreaNY (90). Really? I said the ruth, and NOT Mitt/GOP style of course.
    Lets examine the track record of GOP as a whle and many its leaders in recent times.
    Can U site a single example of ANY Dem asserting that its only duty is to make sure "that guy" is 1 term president & that too frm the day 1 of assuming office?
    Do you know that there is only 6 black US congressman frm GOP? Do U know Dem #?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    One obvious question is whether things are better or worse for the average American now then when Obama took office. Most of the people I speak to in the US say things are the same or worse, I can't think of anyone who has it easier now than they did four years ago. The only exception to that is a friend whose uncle died and left him a fortune, so that doesn't really count.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Romney, debated like a man who did what he was told to do by his spin advisers/hacks re; the debate, to go & talk a lot. But his advisers forgot to tell him when spoke, to be truthful in his utterances. He failed miserably, because the people of US still don't know what he's going to do? still don't know his plan to rescue the economy? & still don't know the real "Mitt Romney". & even he doesn't!

  • Comment number 112.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    104. Curt Carpenter

    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?

    "[w]orking together"? Well, you can count Obama out on that one. We know he has not worked with Congress, and he's given little indication that he's planning to do things differently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Romney won for an obvious reason the rather left of center press simply won't admit - the truth of what he is saying is obvious to anyone who has balanced a household budget or managed household credit. The fatuousness and overspun claims come from Obama, the press has it reversed.

    Obama's record is what it is. How much perfume can you put on that dung heap and still dance around it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Really, where do you live. Come live in Chicago, home of Obama and you too can live in the mess that has been created here. Please come to our unemployed state, come to Lincolnwood, Elk Grove, Skokie, Niles, Morton Grove, etc. and see the abandoned businesses that have left. Come meet the families that cannot get help unless they LIE. Go ahead support Obama. You too can live the "dream"

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    101. PhilSpace

    The BBC are always there to howl down any debate over such issues.

    I do not envy you. Surely there must be some others like you there?

  • Comment number 107.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Romney will win, for the same reason Bush won. Twice. People want the guy in office during a recession who is going to show some business and economic sense with a budget, a lesson the BBC and the UK could not learn soon enough. Riots, anyone? Endless unsustained spending leads to MORE cuts in the future, always more painful. Cutting early is the kindest. And cuts must come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Mitt Romney will say anything and do anything to get elected. It really depends on his audience, really. If not, how do you account for his numerous flip-flops (enacting Obamacare in Massachusetts and then claiming it is bad for the country, the 47% speech to donors then saying he cares for all Americans and now point-blank lying in front of a national audience).


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