Presidential Debate: Round #2
President Obama won the night, but I thought Romney did a pretty good job. Certainly it wasn't a total wipeout like the first debate in which Romney destroyed a listless President Obama. There were a couple of times I thought they might actually hit each other. It was a pretty physically intimidating debate.
However, I do think that President Obama re-established himself as the clear-cut favorite to win re-election. The Intrade market is up about 5 points today from where it was yesterday (now at 65 percent). Following the first debate I was surprised by the significant bounce Romney got - I don't think he ever really took control of the race but certainly it had tightened more than I expected. I think Romney was able to hide his policies and keep himself from looking like the rich arrogant aristocrat who doesn't care about the common folks pretty well. Yesterday that just did not happen.
I thought the 2 most significant moments in the debate were when Romney was asked about equal pay for women and the President was asked about Benghazi. First for Romeny. He does not support equal pay - that much is clear because he didn't come out in favor of it. However, he was so patronizing in his response. He talked about seeing the "binders full of women" when he was picking his cabinet and the fact that he allowed flex time so that his female chief of staff could go home and make dinner - it was a ridiculous comment. That hurt him with women.
But the moment of the debate had to be the discussion about Bhenghazi. I thought President Obama addressed the issue very well. He acknowledged that Hilary Clinton had fallen on her sword, but he took responsibility. His point about greeting the returning coffins and that we should not politicize this type of event really seemed to strike a chord. He looked like a leader and in command when he stared down Romney and said he found the politicization attempt offensive. Romney also stumbled when he said the President hadn't addressed the attack as a terrorist attack - when the President referred to the transcript of his Rose Garden comments the day after the attack, and Candy Crowley pointed out that Romney was incorrect, it seemed to knock Romney off balance for about 10-15 minutes. It was a significant blunder.
I have to say, I don't think the Bhengazi terrorist attack is something that Romney should touch. There really isn't any evidence of a cover-up, nor is there really any reason for a cover-up, so it is unclear what Romney is trying to get out it. For most Americans, I don't think they even know where Bhengazi is or what happened. He should stick to the economic points he wants to make. Talking about Bhengazi just distracts voters away from his core arguments.
The end result is that the President is now back in great shape and Romney's momentum is likely done. I expect the President to have rising numbers the next few days and with just one more debate - on foreign policy - it doesn't look like there is a game changer out there that is going to really change the outcome of the race. It certainly looks like the President will be re-elected in 3 weeks. We'll see.