Why Romeny beat Obama in debate number two

 In Learning from Luminaries, Politicians

In the second presidential debate, leaving aside who won the battle of the ideas – the person who won the battle of the words, body language and voice, consistent with a commander-in-chief and leader of state, was Mitt Romney.

Overall, I gave Romney a 9/10; and Obama 8/10.

A key turning point occurred early on, when the contenders had a mid-floor, toe-to-toe, heated exchange. Obama interrupted Romney in an attempt to stop Romney speaking. Romney responded by instructing Obama, “I haven’t finished’. Rather than continuing to press Romney, Obama went and sat down. He in effect, deferred to Romney. He allowed Romney to ‘put him back in his seat’.

Particularly in the United States, people want their leaders to display a certain toughness – an unwillingness to be deferential, a willingness to push back strongly. Obama let Romney beat him in this power-play. He came across as backing down. Throughout the debate Romney outpointed Obama in projecting a toughness, consistent with that of a strong leader of state.

My other thoughts on the debate are these:

–          Romney opened slightly better than Obama. Obama, in attempting to be more passionate (versus his first debate performance), forced his delivery and came across as unnatural.

–          Romney was more at ease with himself through the debate and demonstrated fine fluency in his speaking delivery, and deft flexibility in finding specific examples to support his points. He repeatedly gave a sense that he was across the detail of issues. (For example, his ‘Fast and Furious programme’ comment).

–          Romney maintained a consistent energy and ‘attack’ on Obama, through his words, body and voice. He was unfazed by Obama’s ‘I find that offensive’ remark.

–          Romney’s closing answer was strong. He showed empathy in his facial expression. His rousing voice energy, pace and passion in his final utterances were strong.

–          Obama had good moments. For example, he refused to cede the floor to Romney in the second heated exchange. His closing answer was strong. He looked at Romney when Romney verbally assaulted him (versus looking downward as he did in the first debate). There were traces of his trademark rhythmical phrasings and the ‘swing’ of his body.

–          However, in a similar vein to the first debate, the strength and consistency of Romney’s attack seem to faze Obama and through him off his timing. In an answer to one question Obama seemed to give a pat response, more appropriate to a formal address versus talking one on one, with a man in the street.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Jared

    Very cogent reasoning. I think the American powerplay definately holds true. The one trait that holds true to presidential candidates past and present is a driving charisma and a powerstruggle that ultimately has a victor based on presentation, the never wavering always stick to their convictions type of individual. Power is everything in politics and unfortunately Obama seems tired. Running around enacting policy while trying to shake hands and kiss babies is a terrible way to be. I would like to see Obama in for another term but the hope is fleeting. Only time will tell.

  • Don Greenamyer

    Excellent analysis.

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