Wednesday’s presidential debate between presidential candidate Mitt Romney and incumbent Barack Obama could very well go down in history as being as influential as the JFK-Nixon debate.
Both Obama and Romney supporters seem to agree that Mitt Romney looked and behaved more presidential than Barack Obama.
Even in Chicago, Ill. where Obama claims as his hometown, media representatives are saying Romney clearly won the debate. Some radio talk show hosts are saying Romney came out swinging and landed some hard blows up front, although unexpectedly, there were no notable quotable “zingers.” During the 1984 presidential debates when asked if, at 73, he is too old to be President, Ronald Reagan replied, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” But not this time.
Liberal broadcaster Chris Wallace, who has been in Obama’s corner, lambasted the president as coming out unprepared for the debate.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement on Wednesday night’s presidential debate, “Mitt Romney was outstanding. Governor Romney showed the American people why he should be elected president and how he has a serious plan to change the direction of the country. On the other hand, President Obama was not only ill-prepared for tonight’s debate; he reminded a lot of voters that he is ill-prepared to correct the broken promises and failed policies of his first term.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore was distressed by Obama’s showing, “Eastwood’s chair would do a better job,” Moore said in a tweet.
Former Vice President Al Gore blamed Obama’s poor performance on the his having flown into Denver the same day as the debate.
CNN reported, “Republican challenger Mitt Romney was the clear winner of Wednesday’s first debate with President Barack Obama. Romney engaged the incumbent while Obama looked down at his lectern. The challenger was a more forceful debater while Obama appeared less than engaged.
“Romney appeared practiced, at ease, confident and fluent in all things Obama. He aggressively criticized the president’s record while also outlining, however vaguely, his own ideas about taxes and the deficit. Obama — his answers slow, dry and cautious — looked shaky.
“When the sparring turned to taxes — an issue on which voters trust Obama over Romney, according to polls — Romney played down questions about his tax plan and stressed again and again that he wants to reduce taxes on middle income families.
“Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried,” Romney said. “They’re just being crushed. Middle income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.”
Obama had a chance to brush his opponent back by hammering home the fact that Romney has been strikingly vague in explaining just how he would pay for an across the board 20percent tax cut without cutting cherished tax deductions.
When responding to the question, “Does repealing Obamacare hike seniors’ drug costs?” a lethargic Obama veered into a plodding, numbers-based criticism of Romney’s tax plan that was a far cry from his campaign trail rallying cries about how Republicans favor the rich.
Obama’s performance was a far cry from what his supporters considered the inspirational figure of 2008.
Romney entered the encounter with Obama battered, weary and under fire from his fellow Republicans. At the end of the night, he stood on equal footing in a 90-minute debate with the President of the United States. That’s a win.
Could Romney seem presidential standing next to Obama?
The answer appears to be yes.
“He held his own against the president of the United States, and for a Republican challenger that’s pretty good,” commented CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, chief anchor of the network’s political coverage.
“Romney held his own on the big questions: On the economy and the role of government,” added CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “When you’re the challenger and you at least hold your own with the President of the United States in the very first debate, you walk off the stage happy.”
“If it was a boxing match, it would have been called,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to the former Massachusetts governor.
The Obama campaign saw the debate very differently. “(Romney) was on defense all night long,” said David Plouffe, a senior adviser to the president.
It appears debate watchers think Romney passed the test every challenger faces in trying to stand with an incumbent president. According to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted right after the session, 67 percent of debate watchers questioned said that Romney won. One in four said Obama was victorious.
Observers agree Gov. Romney appeared more at ease than Obama. When speaking, Romney often looked directly at Obama, while the president mainly looked at the moderator or the cameras when he was speaking. Obama looked down quite often while Romney was speaking.
“The president could barely look at Mitt Romney. He really wouldn’t engage with him, where as Romney would take the president on, on every issue.” said CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
While Romney’s body language seemed energetic, the president’s body language made him seem a bit irritated.
Obama seemed angry that anyone would dare question his decisions. ”I think he found that not only surprising but offensive. It looked like he was angry at times,” added CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who has advised both Democratic and Republican presidents.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stated flatly that the GOP nominee would deliver an earthquake of debate performance that would turn the presidential race “upside down.” It turns out Christie was right.
“Chris Christie is quite the prognosticator,” said Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune said Romney assuaged the Republican concerns about his candidacy — and then some.
“I think this was a make or break moment for the Romney campaign and he delivered. This is a whole new ball game.”
After the debate, Christie adviser Bill Palatucci commented, “Only Chris Christie had the guts to say what he really thought — that Mitt would shine,” Palatucci told CNN in an email.
By Wes Hall