Each week in Civil Discussion, Ben Bartlett (who majored in Political Theory) and Richard Clark (a political spectator who is friends with a guy who majored in Political Theory) discuss political events as they happen over email, hashing out the meaning and manipulations behind them. Also just being bros.
Richard: Ben, I have to admit. I was impressed. How much does last night’s debate matter?
Ben: Well, he definitely had to have this one. Whether it’s too little, too late we’ll see.
If the campaign weren’t so bad, last night would have been a monster blow. As it stands, I think it keeps Romney in the race and maybe increases interest in the next two debates.
Richard: What’s crazy is I really did have a sense of like “Oh this is what all those people who know him are talking about.”
Ben: Yeah, for sure. This is the image he should have been shooting for all along. A lot of people are saying that by far the biggest “winner” from the debate is Rob Portman!
Richard: Who’s that??
Ben: Rob Portman is a friend of Romney’s who for a long time was the leading VP candidate. He’s the Senator from… Ohio, I think? Either that or Indiana. But most importantly, he played the role of President Obama in Romney’s debate prep and helped get Romney ready for last night.
Richard: Ohhhh wow. Interesting.
Maybe more crucially, I lost a lot of confidence in Obama last night. It was painful to watch for the most part.
Ben: Yeah that part shocked me the most. This was a chance to strike a death blow. I can’t believe they didn’t prepare more carefully.
Richard: It would have been so much better if he would just STOP LOOKING DOWN. I kept yelling it at the TV. I couldn’t believe it.
Ok the title is boring. BUT it’s true. It was so clear why you like that show.
Richard: hahaha yeah. that show is good. ;-)
I have to say, I have never seen people be so mean to an old person as people were to Jim Lehrer. I didn’t think he was great, obviously, but when you consider what he was up against, the the incredible force of will that was Mitt Romney Trying To Make A Comeback, I mean.. I don’t blame him for being steamrolled.
Of course now everyone just wants to pile on the guy and make old-people jokes, which is just rude.
Ben: Also here’s my question: who cares? This debate was ultimately way better and more productive than the vast majority of Presidential debates, so how is that not a win? Also I know the organizers of the next two debates will be grateful… the interest in those is going to be way higher now.
Richard: Ha, no kidding!
You know what sucks the most about this whole thing? I spent the last two weeks telling people I was super excited to watch Mitt self-destruct during this whole thing, just because I thought it would be hilarious. Now I look kinda dumb.
Ben this is the first time I have ever looked kinda dumb.
Ben: Well-deserved! This is exactly why I shoot for an even-handed tone in evaluating candidates; it allows you to weather 2008 claims that Obama is a wild left-wing liberal (clearly not true at this point), or to ignore hype about non-candidates (remember when it was considered weird not to take Bachmann or Paul seriously?), or to judge a person through time as opposed to why they are popular in the moment (which is exactly why I’d take Romney over Gingrich any day).
My big problem with Romney has been the poorly-run campaign. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I have a lot of respect for him as a leader and as a man. I tend to give a lot of weight to the testimony of people who worked with him, the outcomes of the various roles he’s taken on, and the legacy he left behind him. My biggest problem has been his team’s inability to communicate those things.
The debate was a great moment for him because a lot of that intelligence and preparedness finally came through. If he had maintained that tone throughout this campaign, we’d be in a very different place.
That said, his campaign has been so uninspired so far, we’ll have to see how well they do at capitalizing on this little bend in the road.