Obama Wins On Points; Romney Passes Key Tests

President Barack Obama used an attacking style and an incumbent’s foreign policy advantage to win on points in his third presidential debate with Governor Mitt Romney. A CNN poll of debate viewers gave Obama a 48-40 edge.

Yet, Romney passed two important tests. Those same viewers placed the two men in a virtual tie on being commander-in-chief, a key test for any challenger in a foreign policy debate with a sitting president. Romney also gained a virtual tie (Obama 48%, Romney 47%) on likeability, a key Romney disadvantage in the campaign.

The President had a sharper focus on foreign policy issues, capitalizing on his first-hand experience. Romney was too vague and much more willing to agree with the president than in previous debates. Romney’s sharp pivot to domestic policy did help his cause, but his decision to pass on the Libya controversy indicated his strategy in debate three was to try to be more likable than forceful.

Obama repeatedly attempted to portray Romney as “reckless,” yet Romney gave him little ammunition. The challenger gave an extremely measured performance emphasizing peace and taking a much more conciliatory tone towards China. The voters must decide for themselves if this is shift in emphasis or a shift in position.

The final presidential debate was more of a chess match than a fist fight. We’ll have a better idea of who really won in two weeks.

The writer is a speaking coach, adjunct media professor, and former elected official.


Passion Guides Romney’s Debate Win

With no gaffes or knockout punches, body language took center stage in the first presidential debate in Denver…and that contest wasn’t even close.  A CNN poll gave Romney a 67-25 advantage among viewers. No candidate has topped 60% since the question was first asked in 1984.

An energetic Mitt Romney seemed like he couldn’t wait to get started. As one of Romney’s harshest critics, liberal pundit Ed Schultz of MSNBC, put it, “Romney looked like the guy who really wanted the job.”

President Obama started slowly, nervously noting his wedding anniversary, and appeared defensive. His body language indicated the debate was, for him, a little like eating his vegetables.

Was there any doubt who was enjoying the debate more?

Romney endured 20 debates in the primary that toughened him up and allowed him to bring his “A” game. The president, who lives in a highly controlled environment, was rusty and not used to having someone directly confront him. His strategists certainly didn’t want him to jeopardize his high “likability” numbers by being too aggressive, but he may have been too passive.

Both men were smart, knowledgeable and civil. There was plenty of substance and there was a sharp contrast in the two competing visions. Romney appeared every bit the president’s equal on stage. This was critical because so much of the Obama campaign has been about making him an “unacceptable alternative.” As one Fox News focus group member put it, “Up until tonight, Obama has defined Romney. Tonight, Romney defined himself.”

There was no way to predict how the two men would appear when on the same stage together for the first time. The President’s laid back style proved to be a sharp contrast to Romney, a contrast that favored the challenger.

Bill Gates once said, “the thing I do best is share my enthusiasm.” Romney did that much better in debate one and it reversed the momentum in the campaign.

Expect round two to be much more confrontational.

The writer is a speaking coach, message strategist, and former elected official. More at markgrimm.com