Mitt Romney scores points in presidential debate, but will it help him?
Mitt Romney appeared more at ease and in control than did President Obama at Wednesday's presidential debate in Denver, with experts saying it might have done him 'some good.'
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But the debate, for the most part, stayed civil – even though both candidates repeatedly talked over Lehrer, and left him with almost no time for his questions on the governing and the role of government, after he hit jobs, the deficit, entitlements, and health care.Skip to next paragraph
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In terms of the nonverbal messages that often make more difference than what is said – remember Al Gore’s sighs and President George H.W. Bush looking at his watch – Romney also may have come out ahead.
Obama didn’t commit any major errors, but his sustained seriousness didn’t help him, where Romney appeared more at ease.
“To the extent that the debate hinged on demeanor, Romney won hands down,” says Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in California. “He was cool, confident, and he kept his gaze on Obama. Obama didn’t seem strong or focused.”
Obama’s performance, says Professor Pitney, reminded him of the mistakes President Bush made in 2004, when he kept grimacing during Sen. John Kerry’s comments. “Expect a lot more Obama smiling next time,” Pitney says.
What’s unclear, of course, is how much the performance will matter.
Romney “was more prepared with short answers on some of the back and forth,” says Professor Lynch of American University. Obama, she says, seemed to want to stick with substance and issues he thinks will resonate with voters rather than score debate points. “But sometimes voters have a different take.”
Fact checkers were working overtime during and after the debate, picking apart candidates’ claims on job creation, entitlements, and their tax plans.
Romney made some waves when he said he had no plan to cut education funding, given that in the past he has promised to do just that.
One cut Romney did promise in the debate if he becomes president: funding for the Public Broadcasting Corporation.
“I’m sorry Jim,” he told Lehrer, who is an editor at PBS’s News Hour, in one of the most tweeted-about lines of the night. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to … keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”
That answer at one point prompted 17,000 tweets per minute for “Big Bird.”