Last night, I co-moderated a viewing of the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The first debate is always exciting: it’s the first major event after the conventions and signifies the last stretch of the presidential campaigns.
Cal Poly Pomona invited students to view the debate on a giant screen in the library. It’s a different experience watching the debate with a crowd rather than the comfort of your living room. There’s a real-time reaction in the room: people scoff, chuckle, and sigh all throughout the showing. It’s a much different experience and I recommend that everyone go to a public debate showing at least once.
As a moderator, part of my responsibility was to offer my thoughts on the outcome. While watching the debate, I found it difficult to separate my own political opinions from what was happening on screen. I found myself filtering the information that was coming from these candidates mouths based on my pre-existing beliefs about the candidates. Having to give my opinion of who won, I tried my best to disengage my own personal opinion as the debate wore on.
Ultimately, I called the debate in favor for Payday Loans Romney. Romney was hungrier and Obama seemed subdued. Both candidates made mistakes, including extensive rambling about policy. But Romney ultimately proved himself to be “presidential” by asserting himself with both Jim Lehrer and the President. Obama stood his ground, didn’t make any major gaffes, but failed to impress.
In the short discussion that followed after, it was clear that people in the audience faced the same struggle I did. Whether they preferred Romney or Obama, most people had trouble sorting through policy talk. Most relied on pre-existing ideas of both candidates in assessing the debate and wanted more conclusive answers to the questions posed. In short, it’s a relatively frustrating practice to try to learn something new from the debate. Perhaps this is the reason why debates don’t matter. Candidates talk past each other and people have to rely on what they already know to assess who won and who lost. So does it matter that Romney was more assertive and won the debate? Probably not. But there’s still three debates and one month left in this race!
Update: The Claremont-LaVerne Patch covered the debate in Thursday’s edition. Check out that article here.