On Wednesday President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Governor Mitt Romney faced off in the first Presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle in the United States.
Many, such as ABC News’
Amy Walter, point to the 2000 Presidential election in which George Bush overcame his opponent's seven point lead in the polls after the first debate of that election year as proof that the debates can change the outcome of the election. The polls in the 2000 Presidential campaign would go on to vary back and forth a bit, however, it was clear that the debates made a substantial difference in the race. Others, such as the Huffington Post
, however are quick to point out that history and polling demonstrate that most of the individuals likely to watch the debates have already decided who they will vote for and are unlikely to actually change their opinion no matter how the debates unfold.
Regardless how you stand on the question, a debate can be a game changer but one thing is clear; the debate tonight is unlikely to fall into that category.
No matter where you stand on the issues the fact is that neither candidate gave a stellar performance in the first Presidential debate. While Romney certainly, as Joseph Bernstein of the Washington Post put it, “was well-prepared, and he delivered his well-prepared lines nicely” he failed to provide any new information on where he stands on a multitude of issues including taxes, health care, and education. While he did do a good job of explaining why he was against President Obama’s policies, the Republican challenger did not detail any of his own plans for how he would solve those issues; something for which he has taken a large amount of criticism in this campaign.
President Obama, on the other hand, while pointing to his own ideas on how to address many of the domestic policy issues we are facing seemed unenthusiastic and did not connect well with the audience. He seemed a stark contrast to the man who had stood up at the Democratic National Convention and spoke with energy and enthusiasm about the path forward. Worse, Obama seemed to miss several opportunities to call out Romney when the Republican failed to provide details about his plans.
Both candidates also appeared unwilling to engage on any of the many gaffes that have been seen on both sides of the campaign leading up to the debates. While I personally prefer a debate on the issues over these kinds of political jabs, in a debate that was otherwise a bit lifeless this would at least have added some entertainment value.
There are two more debates
between Obama and Romney leading up to election day so tonight's performances can certainly be erased if the candidates improve over the course of the next debates. However, the one thing that is certain is that it is unlikely that the polls will show any large change after tonight’s contest.
The full debate can be seen here