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The First Presidential Debate: Romney Surprises, Obama Falters

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An Analysis of the First Obama-Romney Presidential Debate

The Presidential Race Enters the Final Stretch

Willard Romney and President Barack Obama during their first debate. Photo Courtesy of CBS NewsWhat I expected from the first Presidential Debate on October 3rd, was for President Barack Obama to firmly handle Mitt Romney’s arguments. I expected the Republican contender to come across without spirit and with the smirkingly simple-minded businessman-like approach. President Obama would dismantle the coddled politician’s claims to understanding the American people’s work ethic. He would prove that he is the champion of the middle class. It was predicted that it would be easy for Barack Obama to refute Romney’s stiff rhetoric. Mitt Romney had never participated in a Presidential debate, and the Republican party was preparing viewers for this fact, handicapping undecided voter’s expectations. What actually occurred was a success for Mitt Romney, and in this close race, a failure for Obama, one which he can overcome, but only if he decides to do a better job acting as if he cares.

Mitt Romney was much more poignant, and quicker to his points. As the challenger, he came prepared with the advantage of someone who can offer a new direction for America’s future. Americans are impatient, and the course that President Obama has set us on is one that even his strongest supporters can’t claim to fully trust. We are, as always, at a time of crucial change, and in the four years since he was inaugurated the pressure for a better economy hasn’t changed. This leaves Obama’s chance at re-election vulnerable to attack, and subject to a widening margin group of people who are unsure about the credibility of Obama’s stimulus plan. Romney’s plans for how to reduce the deficit and provide a more fruitful economy are geared towards his voter’s expectations; he wants to repeal Obamacare instead of maintain higher tax rates for the upper class. Despite this, Romney possesses a rare case for helping America as a whole. In the debate he pointed out how the middle class yearly salary has dropped over $4,000 since Obama took office. Statistics such as this made Obama’s case for being the saving grace less convincing as he was in a position where he has to explain himself. Obama did little to establish a new argument which could win over undecided voters.

The impact that the contending politicians have on their viewers in these debates is strongly determined by how they present themselves on a surface level. The importance of appearance can’t be underrated, it is literally gauged on the bottom of the screen for viewers to observe. What they discuss is usually routine, issues we’ve heard them expand on for months leading up to the debate. What counts is the manner in which they communicate these ideas. The debate is a condensed version of each politician’s stance, and their performance is based on their appearance, their tone, their enthusiasm, and their ability to respond to attacks. In this debate, Romney was on the offensive and Obama came across as too calm. It looked as if he already believed he had won the next presidency, that he did not need to prove himself any further. Such discrepancy between attitudes was what made Romney look sincere, and Obama somewhat complacent. It was disappointing to watch as Obama could have stood with more authority, but instead seemed to allow the possibility of a reversion to a Republican leader to creep further towards being a possibility.

America is a country that exemplifies an obsession with focusing on pedigree. Even the most noble of our hearts tend to let aesthetic appearance influence our viewpoints on the most serious issues. With an eye for this aspect of evaluating Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s deliveries, it was clear that Romney looked energized and rested, and that Obama looked tired, and though a handsome lad, strangely so. Next to Mitt’s perfectly square jawline, Barack looked less powerful, more human, a quality usually used to his advantage, but in this close proximity, it was a weakness. These details are the trifling and yet all important aspects in determining political success; every time Obama used the word “you know” or used casual language, it hurt him as it exhibited a laxness. Romney was not lax at all, but was direct and clear with his message, claiming that he wasn’t out to forget about the middle class but instead fight for the nation as a whole; whether or not this is true matters, and his policies will likely stampede over his notion of being equitable. But in a debate it seems less important that one be factually accurate and that one instead be aggressive. Mitt Romney did this without appearing mean, making Obama look slightly less charming than usual.

Obama missed the opportunity to call out Romney’s claim about it not being his job to care about 47 percent of the population that represents the middle and lower class. That would have been hugely to his advantage, had he used it, but he didn’t criticize Romney much for his elitist personality. Nor did Obama challenge Mitt Romney’s claim to “being in business” for twenty-five years, on the heels of his refusal to release his tax returns. Obama failed to make eye contact with Mitt Romney, whereas Mitt appeared confident in himself, giving him the appearance of a leader. This, as well as Obama’s rudeness when it came to going over his allotted speaking time, made him seem cocky and yet also less eloquent or powerful than he was in the 2008 election. Rarely, did Obama use his hands to illustrate his points or look any more than disgusted with Mitt Romney’s presence, leaving him to appear more impatient than determined.

Now we know what kind of contender Mitt Romney is, one who can handle the pressure of a Presidential debate. Hopefully Obama does more to combat him next time as he needs to rebound from the first debate and bring more than just hope, but instead the passion that his cool demeanor is getting the better of.

Ezra Prior is a Contributor to The Free George

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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