Final Debate Thoughts: Obama’s Cowbell

After the utter disaster of the first debate, it’s almost as if President Obama and Vice President Biden decided they needed more snark and condescension like “Don’t Fear the Reaper” needed more cowbell.  The cumulative effect of all the mocking smiles, derisive laughs, and “zinging” one-liners (Horses and bayonets?  Really?) was not so much to stop Mitt Romney’s momentum as it was to obliterate President Obama’s likability advantage.  Before the debates, Barack Obama spent hundreds of millions of dollars to label Mitt Romney as an unlikable, extremist plutocrat.  After the debates, Mitt Romney is a reasonable potential president, and even the “favorability gap” has disappeared.

Where does this condescension come from?  The liberal cocoon.  Truly, the snark and condescension in places like Cambridge, Massachusetts (where President Obama attended law school), Manhattan (college), and Chicago (professional career), has to be experienced to be believed.  It’s not that activists liberals in those locations tend to think conservatives are wrong — they also think conservatives are idiots and evil.  To be clear, I know that there are conservatives who act the same way towards liberals, but there simply exist no corresponding conservative cocoons of the same density and ferocity.  Heck, even your average evangelical church (voting roughly 70% Republican in presidential races) has greater ideological diversity than the entire cities of New York, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.  Want to know what urban life is like for outspoken conservatives in those cities?  Imagine living your life on MSNBC’s set.

Consequently, when President Obama snapped at Mitt Romney about horses and bayonets, his handlers and fans not doubt fist-pumped with delight, but does that play in the rest of America?  Is that how adults talk to each other?  It’s simply not a serious retort.

Make no mistake, the debates cumulatively reset this race — and did so in Mitt Romney’s favor by every objective measure.  Now, prepare for a crazy last two weeks — full of desperate attacks, marathon campaign swings, and — no doubt — a surprise or two for the President and for Governor Romney.

I like our chances.

  • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

    Wow… I guess I’m happy that you feel this way but I can’t begin to imagine that much delusion.

    Romney clearly won the first debate, handily. Obama looked bored.

    Ryan clearly got smoked in his debate – the smirks that populated Biden’s face were classic and watching Ryan so thoroughly outmatched had most Americans laughing too. I like Biden ~more~ after this.

    Romney got killed in the last 2 debates – it wasn’t even close. That you have fooled yourself into thinking that Obama was somehow too mean to Romney and that American’s didn’t notice that Romney has no viable policies for this country but instead thought Obama was too tough on Romney is hilarious!

    From “%47 are moochers” to “binders full of women” and ending with the idea that the we need as many ships in our navy as we had in 1917 – the man couldn’t be more out of touch.
    Oh – and has anyone shown Romney a map of the middle east yet? Iran needs Syria to get to the sea? Really?

    Nancy wrote: “I like our chances.”

    That your chances are above zero makes me weep for this once great country. Such an ignorant populace is the only explanation for Romney having a snowballs chance in hell in this election.

    • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

      I thought Nancy penned this post – I wrote that “Nancy wrote…..” when it should have read “David wrote…” in my comment above.

      I just can’t keep the French’s straight!

      • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

        I’m the nice one.

        • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

          Of course!! LOL!

        • David French

          Can we get a Mainstream Media fact-checker on that assertion, Nancy? I’d rate your claim “pants on fire.”

    • swmpfx3000

      Jathiest, you are incorrect. Romney won both the last two debates (and in fact all three) because his strategy was not to win the debates but to win the war. In the long run that is the best winning strategy and it is already beginning to show up here and abroad. Romney adjusted his strategy on each debate so he adjusted to target a specific goal. Obama just got angrier with each debate which is not a winning strategy. Obama has lost the war (election) and has continued to prove himself to be petty and try to win by strategically blaming everyone for everything. It will be nice when President and Ann Romney move into the White House next year. Perhaps then we can finally begin to heal as a country.

      • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

        swmpfx wrote: “you are incorrect. Romney won both the last two debates…because his strategy was not to win the debates…”

        Is that really what you wanted to say? He won the debates because he didn’t? He won because he didn’t win but didn’t want to win either? How is that “winning”?

        swmpfx cont’d: “and [Obama] has continued to prove himself to be petty and try to win by strategically blaming everyone for everything.”
        Do you have examples (evidence) for this or are you just trying to make yourself feel better?

        swmpfx cont’d: “It will be nice when President and Ann Romney move into the White House next year. Perhaps then we can finally begin to heal as a country.”
        If this unlikely event occurs I will cling to the fact that Romney is an etch-a-sketch away from doing the right thing. We have no idea what he will do because if (which is not very often) he does provide specifics to his policy ideas he simply changes them depending who he is talking to.

        Oh well – if Romney does win at least we can rest assured that Iran won’t get to the sea!! ;)

        • Terry

          Doesn’t matter if Mitt won the debates or not–depends on who you talk to. What DOES matter is that Mitt’s poll numbers have shot up since then. Mitt was correct when he referred to Obama’s time in office as “near the end of his term”.

    • 4Aces

      If the winner of the debate is determined by debate points, an argument that Obama and Biden won two of the four debates could be made. However, that superficial analysis ignores the purpose of the debate. That is to persuade voters to vote for you. Romney and Ryan played their debates to maximize votes, rather than to achieve a higher debate score. Obama clearly fell into the trap of feeding his ego with winning the debate. Romney on the other hand made the more sophisticated maneuver of passing up debate scoring opportunities that would cost him voters. In contrast, Obama and Biden both used snark, condescension and aggressive tactics that turn off independents and moderate women voters. Argue all you want about who won but there is no denying that an analysis of poll internals since the first debate shows Romney and Ryan achieved their objective – convincing moderate women and independents to support their candidacies.

  • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

    Thanks for the cowbell laugh though!! That SNL skit is a classic!! :)

    • David French

      Isn’t it? It never gets old.

      • Rex

        David –

        I think ‘more cowbell’ is the perfect symbol of Obama’s desperation after debate #1. The reason it is so appropriate right now is that, just like the skit, the Obama brain trust keeps going back to the same tired lines of attack, hoping for a line of attack that will reverse momentum, and gets louder each time. Biden showed the way in his debate as to how to be louder, for his listless boss, but the net result was exactly zero ‘moving of the needle’ back to Obama.

        The ‘who won the debate’ question in each case, or in all 4 debates, is actually a distraction, because style points might impress a supporter of one candidate or another, but all of those supporters on each side don’t decide the election.

        What is important is whether the debates ‘moved the needle’ in causing (a) more undecided voters to move to a given candidate, and (b) either inspire those voters to turn out in large numbers, or conversely become so disillusioned that they stay home and fail to support their candidate. On all measures, so far, Romney and Ryan are seeing the ‘needle’ move in their favor. Or in some states, the gains that Romney-Ryan have received are largely if not completely retained. Romney hasn’t lost site of winning the war. He could care less about style points.

        Obama is desperate to break the momentum. The significant shift of women voters away from him to Romney, so that the two candidates have about the same support from women are about even, is a catastrophic move if it is maintained, because Romney already had a large margin among male voters and there is no sign that male voters are moving to Obama.

        One predictable side effect of the Obama camp getting louder and more petulant in their attacks on Romney or Ryan, in the ‘more cow bell’ vein, is that it appears that a significant fraction of the undecided female voters are turned off by the increased volume of Obama, particularly as it becomes more shrill or petulant. Thus, it is ultimately a self destructive strategy.

        If we see ‘more cow bell’ become louder and more shrill in the last 2 weeks. I expect that more women (and even men) will see Obama’s unfavorability rating rise, and he could go down loud and angry in a crushing defeat.

        Long live ‘more cow bell.’ I never thought it would become elevated to a principle of presidential election self-destruction. I think we will see it with our own eyes. They don’t have a plan B. They already spent their $200 million or whatever it was to smear Romney’s character, and he turned their entire ‘investment’ into ashes in debate #1 when the public got an unfiltered look at him not only standing on the same stage as President Obama but taking him to the proverbial woodshed.

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  • Joe Canner

    I think Obama’s response reflects American society more than it reflects a liberal cocoon (whatever that is). The American electorate, by and large, does not want to hear long drawn-out explanations as to (for example) why the 1917 Navy is the size it was and why the current Navy is the size it is. Instead, we like sound bites, and “horses and bayonets”, while a bit on the snarky side, is a memorable line that quickly summarizes Obama’s stance on the issue: our world has evolved and our military has to evolve with it.

    Moreover, you can’t tell me that snark and condescension are the sole provenance of the left. While perhaps Romney has avoided it (although I could probably find some examples given some time), he certainly has plenty of surrogates on the right (including those who call themselves Christians) who have used all manner of snark and condescension to belittle the president. The entire “birther” movement, calling Obama a Muslim and/or a socialist and/or a Nazi, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Actually snark and condescension is too kind, as these attacks are typically just plain slander and venom.

  • RedCarolina

    Barack Beavis and Joe Butthead. These two have made FOOLS of themselves for the entire world to see. The voters sent them a loud and clear message in 2010 and we will send them home in 2012. Enough. It’s time to put adults back in charge of the free world.

  • T. B.

    You are so right: not as much about the debates themselves, the last two were a draw but went a tad to Obama (though Ryan was so much more credible than Biden; and yes it was the smirks).
    It’s this though that I agree so much with: “Truly, the snark and condescension in places like Cambridge, Massachusetts (where President Obama attended law school), Manhattan (college), and Chicago (professional career), has to be experienced to be believed. It’s not that activists liberals in those locations tend to think conservatives are wrong — they also think conservatives are idiots and evil. ” I am a real in the middle-of-the-road a-pox-on-both-their-houses type, but even when I agree with liberals which is frankly often, I quickly regret allowing the topic to turn to politics because of the whole, if you differ on any point of the politically correct party line you are stupid, insane, and evil. For eample (apologies to jathiest), of the half the population that will likely vote for the other guy: “Such an ignorant populace is the only explanation for Romney having a snowballs chance in hell in this election.” – “Stupid”; or of people who see a debate differently: “I can’t begin to imagine that much delusion.” – “Insane”. and of Romney “Romney is an etch-a-sketch away from doing the right thing. ” – “Evil”. Okay not quite ‘evil’ more like ‘dishonest’, but I was determined to get my liberal trifecta. Now I know some personalities like Rush Limbough are just a bad, but the liberals I know personally are like, well, jathiest; and the conservatives I know personally are more measured in tone. Hence I can debate with conservatives and have a pleasant converstation, but don’t even want to agree with a liberal for the unpleasantness that ensues.

    • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

      TB wrote: “‘Such an ignorant populace is the only explanation for Romney having a snowballs chance in hell in this election.’ – ‘Stupid’”

      If you think “ignorant” means “stupid” then I don’t know what to say to you. Get a dictionary perhaps.

      TB cont’d: “‘I can’t begin to imagine that much delusion.’ – ‘Insane’.”

      Considering that most Republican pundits admit that Romney lost the last 2 debates I don’t think it’s a stretch to call the contrary opinion ‘delusional’. I’m not sure ‘delusion’ is synonymous with ‘insane’ though…

      Regarding your “evil” line – even you admit that is a stretch. Mitt Romney is a known flip-flopper and calling him out on that is not even close to calling him “evil”. I don’t think he’s evil at all. I think he’s an opportunistic, rich guy who has enjoyed wealth and power throughout his life and he’s willing to say and do anything to get elected. I don’t think he has the knowledge discuss foreign policy let alone implement it! He can’t even go to England, one of our strongest allies, without insulting them!

      TB cont’d: “Now I know some personalities like Rush Limbough are just a bad…”

      Like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Bryan Fischer, Jimmy Lasalvia, Donald Trump, Peter Labarbera, Michelle Malkin, etc… Yeah – there are a few like that on the right too! ;)

  • Geoff Schmalz

    Dave, All I know is that the 1st Cavalry Division and 1st infantry Division have horse detachments, and as a Troop Commander in 1st Armored Division back in 2002 I had 137 Troopers authorized and 137 bayonets secured in my arms room. So we do have bayonets and horses still in the DODs budget. Just sayin’.

    • David French

      Brave Rifles, sir! Where was my bayonet downrange? Don’t lawyers need cold steel?

    • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

      If you don’t understand the idea that Obama was presenting with his “horses and bayonets” line then I’m not sure what to say… Obama certainly wasn’t claiming that the military have no need for horses or bayonets – he was ~clearly~ referring to the fact that our navy has advanced A LOT since 1917. To say that our navy had more ships in 1917 is to completely miss the point – the navy has changed!

      I would take one aircraft carrier today against the entire 1917 navy and win the battle easily… and that’s just ONE ship in today’s navy, and doesn’t touch our nuclear subs.

      To claim our navy is weaker today because the total number of ships is less that 1917 is either uncomprehendingly ignorant, or completely dishonest. Either way it’s not something the president of the U.S. should ever utter.

      • 4Aces

        Except that our shrinking navy must both keep up with growing capabilities of various geopolitical foes (China, for example) and cover just as much area. China is undertaking an extremely aggressive expansion and modernization effort that has made many in the DoD nervous. Although investments in their fleet are accelerating dramatically, it is the growing capability of sea launched aircraft that has advanced most quickly. My work with the Navy’s ONR and NRL and interactions with a few admirals who are connected with this issue suggest that this issue is real and not easily dismissed by with a bayonets and horses retort.

  • Michelle

    Great…now I’m going to have to watch another SNL skit on YouTube. :)

  • Christian J

    “but there simply exist no corresponding conservative cocoons of the same density and ferocity.” This is a tired old argument full of baseless generalizations and assumptions. Its like Mr. French took his own life experience and decided that it fits everyone else. And what evidence does he have that the conservative hot beds of the South and Western US are any less ferocious and insular?

    • David French

      Did you read the article? The urban areas of the concentrated left vote in greater ratios than churches . . . a church will typically vote between 70-80% Republican, while entire leftist cities (like San Francisco, DC, New York, etc.) will vote 80-90% Democrat. That makes our leftist enclaves less ideologically diverse than your average suburban megachurch.

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