Here’s My Take on Last Night’s Debate

Last night’s first presidential debate was a great night for challenger Mitt Romney. He was the only one on the stage who looked like he knew what he was there to do (including Jim Lehrer). While Romney tenaciously attacked the president and continued to spin the GOP narrative, Obama sleepwalked through the entire night. He seemed caught off guard by Romney’s articulate message, and completely unprepared to match it with a message of his own. While Romney was passionate and organized, Obama seemed grumpy and defeated. The entire game was played on Obama’s side of the field as Romney took it to the president for 90 minutes. It wasn’t even close. Romney won the debate by a couple touchdowns.

When the dust settles and everyone reviews the tape, the narrative may change a little bit. For one thing, this debate was all about the economy. Obama was always going to struggle in that conversation. As I read the news online today, the GOP folks are excitedly spiking the ball. Yet, while the Republicans bask in the glow of their candidates superior performance, you can bet that the Dems are working through what will surely be a windfall of new ad material. This was a good example of the one clear advantage of being a challenger. None of your plans need any basis in reality. “What I plan to do,” is just a phrase the incumbent isn’t able to use very easily. If you campaign in poetry and govern in prose, Obama seemed unable to make the switch from governing prose to campaign poetry

Romney’s campaign advisers need to get some serious recognition for for superior strategy and preparation. The GOP team had a perfect approach planned, they had done their homework, and Romney was flawlessly prepared. He hammered the jobs narrative with impressive discipline. Obama’s advisers clearly did not have the president ready. I keep hearing the Carter/Reagan comparisons from the right, but I think I would compare last night’s debate to Clinton v. Bush 01. It was a pretty lopsided win for the R’s.

One interesting note is that Romney doesn’t appear to have done well with women voters. Focus groups seem to indicate that although women agree that Romney won, they indicate that Romney came off like the argumentative ex-boyfriend who had to win every fight and wouldn’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. The overnights will tell us more but focus groups seem to indicate that Romney won the debate, but it doesn’t seem to have moved the dial for him. People are still waiting on particulars. One thing’s for sure, the stakes just got higher for the next two debates.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • katie

    My friend’s Facebook status during the debate:
    “Mittens: ‘I don’t want government having a say in my health care,’ he says speaking about health insurance.
    My reaction as a woman: ‘Y’a don’t say?’”

  • http://bobcornwall.com Bob Cornwall

    Tim,

    Obama didn’t bring his A game, but I think the format (podiums) suited Romney and may have lulled Obama into teacher mode. I think you can also take into consideration that Romney has been in debate prep mode ever since the convention. I think he’s spent as much time prepping for last night has he has campaigning in person. Obama on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have been putting in the time prepping. But, remember, unlike Romney he has a day job.

    I expect debate 2 to be different. For one thing it’s a town hall and Obama did well in that format when running against McCain, who also liked the format. That debate was pretty good, if I remember right. So, expect a better performance next time from Obama, and maybe a less polished one for Romney.

    But, in substance, Obama had the material and Romney has to explain how his 20% tax cut, end of inheritance taxes, and a few others don’t involve a big tax cut. Firing Big Bird won’t save the budget — it’s less than half a billion a year. Small potatoes. As Bill Clinton said — it’s a matter of the math.

  • scott stone

    Tim,
    Is it just me or was that really a strange debate? I’m not sure how I feel. I certainly think that Romney won but my attention is more directed towards the president. He seemed genuinely ill-prepared but how can that be? He’s a bright, articulate guy with world class people all around him. I’m not chalking it up to “just an off night.” I’ve watched all the debates since Carter v. Ford and this one was odd.
    I did like it when Romney would use the term “middle income” versus the use of “middle class.” He should make that distinction every time he speaks, not just occasionally.
    Maybe the next debate will be better for the president but it is obvious that Romney is on top of his game right now.

  • Brett Maltbie

    Tim, as far as the “argumentative ex-boyfriend” angle, I think Romney was just determined not to let Obama control the dialogue. I think that’s an important conservative strategy right now – take back the dialogue. For a while now it seems to me the Left has controlled the definitions of terms, etc and the Right has twiddled their thumbs and let them do it. What I saw in Romney last night was that he was in now way going to let the President use buzzwords or soundbites without bringing clarity and facts to back it up. I really liked the analogy about his boys, too – that was a stab at the liberal media, for sure – what he said about his kids “repeating something until he finally believes it.” I thought it made a lot of sense.

  • John R Huff II

    If you want to say a damn lier is a winner, then be my guest. Romney lied about most everything he has said
    for the past year. Yes, Romney was typical Romney. All mouth, in your face, and no substance to what he says.
    Romney , I suppose won the performance tonight, but in no way did he win a debate. The man is a fake. He is incapable of understanding the middle income (ha ha) and the poor.
    No, this man is not interested in helping the country, he is interested in building up his ego.
    Tim, you do not have a good grasp of politics. I see right through people like Romney, W, and all the rest of the white wealthy Republican trash.

    • scott stone

      ” I see right through people like Romney, W, and all the rest of the white wealthy Republican trash.” Spoken like a truly open minded compassionate liberal. Let the name calling begin.

    • Steve Hontz

      How quick you are to call out lies from the other side, but can you look over your shoulder and say nothing about the lies spewing out from the Obama camp? I think this two party system is broken beyond repair and both sides spend way to much money spinning lies about each other. Until the people educate themselves with something more than Fox and MSNBC our citizens will continue to vote for who ever looks better at lying. I serve the homeless in and around KCMO with Uplift and Hope Faith and I promise you this, Obama has done nothing for the poor in this city, even when he had dems controlling the House and Senate. The left exploits the poor and keeps them beat down promising them that the merciful left will punish those fat cats millionaires and yet nothing changes, except that there are more of them now than ever. The right does not care about the poor because they won’t vote for them. And the poor and unborn children should never have been a political issue, this is where Christ commanded his Church to serve and bring hope to the poor and the young girls with a tough choice to make. But oh no, we are all to busy propping up the lies of our side, giving money to liars and thieves when we should be focusing on the Kingdom of God, if the church would unite into one body, we would not need the Govt to hand out food stamps, fund abortion clinics or fight over health care. It would be provided by a united Church living out Acts as we were commanded. I have never felt like not voting until this year. Sad sad day indeed, for all of us.

  • Jim Robertson

    How are you doing with your pledge not to watch any 24 hour news programing until after the election… I’m still solid !!!

  • Tim Suttle

    Hey Jim, I’m still on the wagon and not missing them at all. I started getting the New York Times & get my news via print media now. The debate was honestly so boring that I had to make myself keep watching the last 30 minutes. I wasn’t even tempted to watch the coverage.


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