Why Barack Obama’s Debate Performance is Irrelevant

Why Barack Obama’s Debate Performance is Irrelevant October 18, 2012

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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