I have to part ways from the professional cheerleaders in the “conservative” movement regarding the debate. I thought Obama did OK and didn’t appear too frustrated or annoyed, has often has. Far from being some effective show of aggressiveness, I think Romney’s talking at Obama is not effective; it’s not like he’s going to convince *him*. He’d be better off looking into camera and talking to American people. It shows the kind of cool, professional confidence we want in a president, and it also embraces a basic principle of rhetorcial ethics, i.e., the avoidance of ad hominems or the perception of the same, and the key focus always being on the good of the audience.
The China borrowing quotewas good, as was his appeal to his own bipartisan experience in Mass. And he was at his best when addressing the disastrous money giveaway that is Obama’s green jobs program. But I also thought that Romney had plenty of opportunities to hammer a point home, and instead went into wonkish territory. He rarely brought his diversions into heavy policy talk back to general principles by using short and memorable sentences. Obama did the same thing, but that’s always been his schtick, and his biggest problem, a huge gap of his record and his promises, was not emphasized enough.
Romney should have hammered the “You had four years” point more than
he did and blamed the President more for the horrendously bad economy as a direct consequence of Obama’s policies. He also did terrible on the question of regulation, but his point on bank regulation was not too bad. He should have used it to contrast systemic failures and the unique role of banking in a free market from more paternalistic regulations, such as banning sodas and messing with school lunch programs. It would have been nice if Romney appealed to Richard Epstein’s distinction of rules that seek to control the content of the traffic (i.e., Solyndra) from mere rules of the road (Dodd Frank).
Romney did OK and many say he won, but I don’t think it was nearly as decisive as needed, and I don’t think Obama did as bad as he could have. And I say this, of course, as someone who wants to see Obama lose and who plans to vote for Romney, in spite of his manifold flaws.