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 164.

    Ethan Farber (158),

    "A list? Sure.

    Food. Water. Power. Telecom. Finance. Education ..."

    On the off chance that you didn't understant, that was a request for a list of companies that "can just raise prices whenever they want". Go back to #156 and look.

    Nice try.

    I didn't expect that you would be able to substantiate that decidedly odd claim.


  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Shaking people down for what?

    Enterpreneur taking one's own time & ingenuity and doing something with it? That wasn't Romney, he bought firms, fired Americans, sold assets & exported the jobs to China.

    OWS are those who work...and are tired of breaking their backs for the benefit of the lazy rich.

    40hrs...isn't even a living wage in America anymore. Cliches from an out of touch paid activist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    ref #160

    A community organizer is a shake down artist.

    A busineess entrepeneur which is a better desciption contrbutes to the economy and society.

    Next you are going to say a lazy OWS contributes more than someone who works 40 hours

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Being a community organizer absolutely is. Being a community organizer means getting out there, talking to people, understanding their concerns, making policies for the electorate.

    Worse than the sheltered insider enriching himself?

    I guess next you're going to say that Ebenezer Scrooge did more for Britons than Robin Hood? One wonders if Romney inverts the two when he tells bedtime stories...

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Dr Bob Hauer
    19 Minutes ago
    It is one skill set to be a corporate raider, entirely another to run a country.
    Romney talks out of both sides of his mouth, Obama speaks plainly and truthfully. Romney is manifestly unqualified to be President.
    You are unqualfied to vote, Romeny tells the truth being a communitry organizer is not the qualfications for being President

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Market collusion is a reality of life.

    Corporations spend money to delude Westerners into voting against their interests in the idiotic belief that others selfishness will benefit them.

    The wealthy will continue to appropriate everything until things get so bad theres another Bastille.

    It took so long for the Bastille to pass because people believed the lies of the nobility all too long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    A list? Sure.

    Food. Water. Power. Telecom. Finance. Education.

    Costs on all have risen faster than inflation & wages even as productivity continues to climb. All that "productivity" means is competition for fewer jobs, lower wages and the rich keeping their gains.

    That youd even say something so absurdly out-of-touch with ordinary Americans struggle against tides proves you to a paid activist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Ethan Farber

    In an open market unless a corporation has a monopoly they have to act withing market forces. They cant just raise prices as the customer will chose with their feet or abstain. either would harm the corporation. Now are some corporations too large is a different question. I fear some are getting that way, but this does not apply to Bain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Ethan Farber (154),

    "It's easy for corps to not have debt when they can just raise prices whenever they want ..."

    Only if those corps want to go out of business.

    Most companies have debt.

    Whould you care to provide the list of companies that "can just raise prices whenever they want"?

    This should be entertaining

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    It is one skill set to be a corporate raider, entirely another to run a country.
    Romney talks out of both sides of his mouth, Obama speaks plainly and truthfully. Romney is manifestly unqualified to be President.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    It's easy for corps to not have debt when they can just raise prices whenever they want - but God forbid that government tax those who have most of the wealth.

    Those same people who raise prices at will, breaking the backs of hardworking Americans and Europeans, then jeer at governments for not doing the same.

    80% success rate? By what measure? Same metric as a robber...he got loot for himself!

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Kiz (151),

    "... Obama may not be perfect, but he's consistent."

    Except when he isn't. Take, for example his position on homosexual marriage. He has expressed several changes in his position over time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Curt Carpenter (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? …”

    Neither candidate, of course. Both candidates will protect their special interests.

    What a silly question! It mischaracterizes to the differences between the two candidates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.


    When Romney is avoiding answering questions, denying things he's already stated in his current campaign and rejecting policies from previous campaigns it's fair to run negative news against him. There's a lot more of it.

    Obama may not be perfect, but he's consistent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Ethan Farber

    You appear to miss the fact that Bain only makes money if they are successful and in the majority of instances this means turning companies around. Are they perfect, do they always get it right, no. But they are up there with the best. Anyway what is the alternative, in the vast majority of cases the companies would fail and those employed there would loose their livelihoods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    I wonder how many negative Romney stories the BBC are going to run today?:
    'Romney Says 47% Remark Was Wrong'
    'Obama Comes Out Swinging at Romney'
    'Obama: Romney Must Tell the Truth'
    Three already, and we've scarcely finished breakfast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I guess by your logic we should take the word of a career criminal because he went out there and "did it" - for himself!

    Hey, the house burglar isn't a bad guy, he's just trying to make a living for himself right? Can't blame him for being successful. I guess those people who don't have their savings anymore should have just bolted the doors harder, or worked harder so not everything was stolen!

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    ref #Ethan Farber
    52 Minutes ago
    "You know nothing about Bain or the great work thatRomney did there."

    And you do?
    Yes an 80% turnaround rate is outstanding, who dispute it: dem operative and union mafia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Ethan Farber

    The global problem is not wealth or even its distribution it is debt. That is why the USA is on the edge of a cliff along with Europe and a great number of other countries. The have it all and have it now culture spread like a cancer through nation after nation and now their citizens think that it is theirs by rite. As far as Bain is concerned, is it a success corporation, Yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    "Don't show your ignorance, there to make money and hence create wealth...generates jobs."

    If I am ignorant you are informed? How so? Or is this just paid activist rhetoric?

    You're talking in circles. Bain doesnt have to be good so its ok its not, but it is anyway?

    The worlds net worth has never been greater yet unemployment is global problem. Clearly wealth is not generating jobs.


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