By Manifesto Joe
I felt pretty depressed after watching every word of Wednesday night's debate between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Scumney. Oh, it could have been worse for Obama supporters. It looked pretty much like a boring draw, if you'll pardon the boxing analogy. There were no knockdowns.
But this worked very much in Scumney's favor. Expectations for him were pretty low, so this performance actually gave many people the perception that he won. Never mind that the fact-checkers had a field day with all the bogus numbers he was tossing around. TV debates are about telegenic image (ask the ghost of Dick Nixon). He'd been well-coached, and made no major mistakes. He looked sharp -- well, as good as it gets -- and primed for battle.
Obama, in contrast, looked tired, as though he really didn't feel very good and didn't want to be there. His performance was adequate, but very dry and academic, as though he were back at the University of Chicago giving a lecture on constitutional law. He let Scumney get away with a lot of factual liberties, too.
Obama seemed to labor a lot, and with the mummified Jim Lehrer, 78, as the moderator, he ultimately spoke for about 4 minutes longer than Scumney. But he pretty much blew any opportunities he had to score with heavy punches.
Sometimes TV debates don't count for very much. I watched every word of the first 1984 encounter between Reagan and Mondale, and I thought Mondale mopped up the floor with the senile old man. There was a second debate, and a highly coached Reagan was relatively impressive the second time. That seemed to be enough for most of the voters who'd paid any attention -- he won with 59% of the popular vote.
And, I thought John Kerry pretty much pummeled Il Doofus all three times that they met in 2004. But he never quite went for the jugular. The right-wing voters apparently just decided that Kerry was a pointy-headed liberal who had learned how to argue better along the way, and so the debates didn't influence them much, if at all.
On the "strength" of this, Scumney seems to be back in this thing. Obama is probably getting an earful from his staff, and probably from Michelle, too. I pray that he's listening -- he's only got two more debate shots at Scumney this month.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.