The second debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney is now in the books. Was there a winner and loser?
I think the loser is the town meeting format. It’s just not well suited to a meaningful debate. The candidates both ran roughshod over the rules, often failed to answer the questions, and frequently argued with each other and interrupted each other. The result was a very messy discussion. It was not particularly attractive to watch, and in my view didn’t reflect well on either candidate. I’d be interested in knowing whether the folks in the room felt as uncomfortable watching the interruptions and posturing as Kish and I did watching from our family room.
The questions at least got us into some new issues that haven’t been addressed yet — domestic gas prices, trade, immigration, gun control, and Libya, with the Libya discussion probably being the one that is the most likely to be carefully deconstructed and analyzed. These are issues that need to be discussed, and it is worthwhile that they have been introduced to this campaign.
Both candidates obviously decided to be more assertive. The President certainly was more aggressive than he was in the first debate, and in that sense I think he did what he needed to do in the debate. Mitt Romney responded in kind. Because the President gave a much stronger performance than in the first debate, he at least won’t be criticized by his own supporters — which will be a victory of sorts for him. We’ll see what the fallout is as people digest the discussion and the argument, and the unattractive, off-putting nature of this debate.