Dr. Owen Election Scorecard - Oct. 5

Obama stumbles with lackluster debate performance - campaign dives into media damage control

Editor’s note: This post is part of a weekly series by Dr. Owen that we will feature on on weekends until Election Day. They are part of a blog being run by Affan Chowdhry of the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. The blog series will focus on providing a weekly campaign scorecard for each candidate.

This week's full blog post can be read at the Globe and Mail's website here.

Whether it was too little preparation, lack of enthusiasm, or as Al Gore suggested, the altitude in Denver, Barack Obama’s lackluster debate performance has shifted the momentum of the campaign to Mitt Romney—at least in the short term.  Americans like a president who exhibits strength and leadership, and Obama appeared tired and reticent.  In sharp contrast, Romney came out swinging and didn’t let up.  Romney managed to get in 541 more words than Obama in four fewer minutes.  Obama should have been poised for a challenge, as Romney was a feisty debater during the Republican nominating campaign. 

This debate set off an intense media frenzy that is fueled by the availability of social media that enables immediate, unfiltered, and widespread commentary from just about anyone who is interested in jumping into the fray.  Both camps spent Thursday attempting to coral the media agenda, and  issued post-debate ads with messages they reinforced on the stump.  Obama took the gloves off while campaigning in Colorado, and questioned Romney’s authenticity and trustworthiness, a message that is central to a new tv ad.

The Republican National Committee released an ad to media organizations called, “Smirk,” that spotlighted Obama’s uncomfortable and off-putting body language as Romney talked about the failure of Obama’s policies.

As candidates veered off into discussions of Simpson-Bowles and Dodd- Frank legislative initiatives, voters no doubt honed in on the candidates’ demeanor like they did in 1992 when George H.W. Bush checking his watch during a debate made headlines, so the ad is could resonate.

For the record, moderator Jim Lehrer managed the debate about as well as the replacement referees handled the first three weeks of the NFL season.   The candidates ran all over him, and the fans were not happy.