Why Barack Obama’s Debate Performance is Irrelevant

It was unsurprising that President Obama performed better on Long Island than he did in Denver.  If there is one thing his friends and foes agree upon when it comes to the character of Barack Obama, it’s that he’s intensely competitive.  According to reports, Obama did not know how poorly he had performed in Denver.  Once he had digested the overwhelming criticism of his performance, however, the President put in the time, prepared, and delivered a much better performance.

It’s unsurprising.  It’s also irrelevant.  But the reason why it’s irrelevant is relevant and important to understand.

The Left misinterpreted Obama’s post-Denver slide in the polls.  They thought it was because Obama did not perform well, but that’s not it at all.  America knows Barack Obama by now.  Well, to be more accurate, by virtue of a truly epic failure on the part of the our mainstream media, Americans are still astonishingly ignorant about President Obama’s history and record prior to 2008 — but their perceptions are already formed about who Obama is, what he says and what he does, and those perceptions are not going to change a great deal from a single debate performance.  The movement in the polls after Denver had nothing to do with changing perceptions of Obama — with one important exception I’ll explain shortly — and everything to do with changing perceptions of Romney.

Put it this way.  When it comes to Obama, most people’s minds are made up.  45 percent are going to vote for him.  45 percent will not.  Of the remaining ten percent, Obama has had four years to close the sale and he has failed.  If those 10 percent believed that Obama’s record as President warranted another four years, they would not be undecided.  The primary reason they’re undecided is because they’re still assessing Romney.  If people see a version of Obama that’s arrogant, petulant and stammering, that will have a slight negative effect, but it won’t sway people’s opinions too much.  And the upside of a rousing debate performance is extremely limited, because we’ve heard it all before from President Obama.

In other words, Romney soared in the polls after Denver not because Obama performed so poorly but because Romney himself performed so well.

The respect in which people’s perceptions might have shifted in the aftermath of Denver’s Debatageddon is in their perception of his basic honesty.  Seeing a Romney who was dazzlingly intelligent and competent, optimistic and inspiring, may have served to break the trance — because the people of America saw that the version of the Republican candidate they had been sold by the Obama campaign and its eager accomplices in the mainstream media was not accurate at all.

The Obama campaign spent a great deal of money immediately after the conclusion of the Republican primaries because they wanted to “define” Romney.  And the press went along with it.  They made out Romney to be a heartless robber baron who just (for some reason) wanted to kill puppies, destroy American jobs and make his rich friends richer.  It was ridiculous, but it was working.  And when Romney not only delivered a virtuoso performance on the Denver stage but showed the American people who he is and what he cares about, I think a lot of the American people realized that they had been sold a false bill of goods.

That means that Obama’s continued assault on Romney’s record and character will have a limited effect.  The Left was clamoring for Obama to go on the offensive, but that’s the last thing he needs to do.  No one trusts that Obama will accurately represent Romney.  And the American people understand intuitively that a strong President would be running on his own record, his own accomplishments, his own vision — not on scaring people away from a caricatured version of his opponent.  Obama can keep on attacking Romney, but the American people just don’t believe him anymore.

I’ve written before on “The Wages of Spin.”  Obama and his campaign are masters of spin.  Obama spun and speechified his way into the Presidency, largely by promising what he could never deliver.  It gained him a first term, but at the cost of weakening his pitch for a second term, because Romney has been able to point relentlessly to all the promises that are unfulfilled, and the American people simply don’t trust in the honesty of Barack Obama.  Once you’ve lost that trust, it’s almost impossible to earn it back.

After Denver, sway-able voters did not abandon Obama due to his poor performance but rallied to Romney because they saw who he is.  Myth Romney faded from memory and the real Mitt Romney stood up and presented himself to the American people without the filter of the liberal media.

That’s why Romney was strengthened and not weakened by the Hofstra debate.  Obama performed better, but we’ve heard it all before — while Romney solidified the impression that he is presidential, compassionate and extremely capable.

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About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • Ryan S.

    ” Seeing a Romney who was dazzlingly intelligent and competent, optimistic and inspiring, may have served to break the trance — because the people of America saw that the version of the Republican candidate they had been sold by the Obama campaign and its eager accomplices in the mainstream media was not accurate at all.”

    As a person who sits outside of America but is an avid watcher of American Politics, I can’t help but think you are buying into the same bill of goods on Romney that people bought with Obama. Its bizarre that you paint Obama as a spin master and then craft a “spin” story that relates a narrative that has virtually no support.

    After Denver, sway-able voters did not abandon Obama due to his poor performance but rallied to Romney because they saw who he is. Myth Romney faded from memory and the real Mitt Romney stood up and presented himself to the American people without the filter of the liberal media.

    Most voters do not see “who he is” most voters see what they want in a candidate. I would doubt most human beings are morally formed enough to make an accurate judgment on what they want someone to be in the first place.

    Tim, I’m a friend not a foe, but I have to admit that American politics mystify me. They particularly mystify me because those who speak up in the political process so often manipulate things to get their way. I’ve never see anything from you or the French’s taking the time to talk about Romney’s negative qualities (I could be wrong). Thus, you give the impression that you have bought into him lock, stock and barrel. I know that one cannot blog everything, yet I admit I am always uneasy when people act to persuade (either others or themselves).

    The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is one such group. Francis Graham, president, critiques Rob Bell’s views and calls him a false teacher, and then turns around and removes the Mormon page from their cult website. Mind-blowing!

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I think they’re right to remove Mormonism from the list of cults. I think it’s absurd to call Mormonism a cult. The only way evangelicals can defend calling Mormonism a cult is to say that we have our own private definition of cult that means something different than what the rest of the world means by it. But then…why use the word “cult” when that word means something else to the world?

      I’ve been a supporter of Romney’s for over ten years now. He’s no savior, no Messiah, he has his faults, and there are areas where I disagree or wish his policies were different. But I do believe that he’s “dazzlingly intelligent and competent, optimistic and inspiring.” In private settings as well as public.

      As my friend Mike Cromartie said, the dead are not raised by politics. And we need to have a realistic assessment of what any President can achieve. But I do think he’s the right guy for this moment, and I’m happy to persuade people of the same. I’m not sure what narrative it is that you think has no support, but I’d be happy to explain if you want to clarify.

  • Eleanor

    Excellent assessment. Thank you!

  • Patrick

    Brilliant analysis. Perhaps this is proof that the truth eventually wins out. I think this election cycle may represent the low water mark in US media coverage of a presidential campaign. But the media that continue to remain so overtly biased at the great expense of this nation’s liberty will likely all eventually suffer the same fate as Newsweek. Deservedly so. I’m not prone to exaggeration but I have come to believe that despite the resilience of our great country, the reelection of Obama would be nearly impossible for us to ever recover from.

  • Dwight

    Mitt got 90% of the vote in the Utah primaries in 2008 and I believe it was over 95% in 2012. For those who think that it is simply because he is Mormon, they should consider two things, Utah is not THAT Mormon (just over 50% in the Salt Lake area and about 2/3rds in the rest of the State) and Utahns were very underwhelming in their support of Mormon and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in his 2000 Presidential bid.
    The reasons Utahns support Mitt so much is because they saw how amazingly competent (and dazzlingly brilliant etc) he was when he took over the Salt Lake Olympics. Few people outside of Utah realize just how much of a turn-around he produced. They don’t realize how floundering the organization was before he came.
    Yes, many here like to see a Mormon succeed, but if anything, they are scared to throw out just any Mormon to be the test run. Most feel they can’t afford a failure when someone is known as a Mormon. So the support he gets here really is due to his brilliant competence and not due to his being a Mormon from Michigan and Massachusetts.
    Another angle to look at. See the breakdown of the Evangelical vote in the Primaries all over the country. In places where Mormons are little known, Romney didn’t do well. In places where Mormons are fairly well known (mostly Western States) he enjoyed a much stronger support from Evangelicals.
    Whether it’s in business, religion or politics, the more people get to know Mitt Romney the more they like and trust him.


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