Barack Obama was more aggressive and didn’t come across as if in despair tonight, so he didn’t get routed. But Mitt Romney still came across far better: a bit more likeable; more believable; less of a broken record; more substantive; more forward-looking; and, importantly, still more in control. On that last front, there were several really odd visuals that struck me: Several times, Romney was talking directly to Obama and looking directly at him, but Obama WOULD NOT look at Romney, either in listening to him or in answering him. It’s as if he just couldn’t look him in the eye. I’ve never been big into this theory of the “alpha male” on stage being the KEY determinant of who “wins” a debate. But it IS at least AN ingredient. And Romney was clearly more alph: He was direct; Obama wouldn’t look at him, which is what the “weaker” person does, in terms of body language.
Romney got off good shots on a number of fronts without sounding like he had rehearsed sound bites, but as part of the conversation that flowed naturally. He did so on gasoline prices doubling; he did so on Fast and Furious; he did so on Obama’s arithmetic being less trustworthy than his own because Obama hadn’t lived up to his own arithmetical promises while he, Romney, had spent his whole life making budgets balance.
The Chris Matthewses of the world will say Obama won this debate. Their headlines were written before the debate even started. But they are wrong. Romney didn’t dominate this one, but he did win. Obama certainly didn’t change the momentum back in his own favor. Romney kept his campaign moving in the right direction tonight. He was strong and solid, especially with his closing answer.
The only saving grace for Obama was that he got to speak last, so he was able to raise the “47 percent” thing without Romney getting to answer (or to bring up the “you didn’t build that” or the “cling to guns and religion” gaffes by Obama). But it wasn’t enough to make him a winner. Going forward, Romney has the edge.