Why the first debate could determine the next president - Macleans.ca

Why the first debate could determine the next president

It might be Romney’s last chance


(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Once you take into account the usual post-convention bounces in poll numbers, it is fair to say that the gap between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney remains within the margin of error—though Obama has built some momentum. Last Friday’s weak job numbers, however, guarantee that the economy will remain the priority issue for most voters, and the race is expected to stay a close one until the first debate between the two candidates.

This being said, this election will be about more than economic indicators at the end of the day. Character and vision will take on an importance of their own when we enter debate season. So far, this appears to be playing in the Democrats’ favour. According to polls, they managed to change the dynamic of the race with a more successful convention than the Republicans (Clint Eastwood’s performance notwithstanding). Republican nominee Mitt Romney still hasn’t succeeded in conveying a clear idea of the kind of president he will be. His feeble attempt to exploit events in Libya on September 11 only further puzzled Americans voters trying to understand who he really is.

Obama may not have regained his luster of 2008, where his historic quest attracted a horde of new voters, but he did succeed in showing that he has a record and accomplishments to defend. Meanwhile, the Republican account of a Carter-like leader with a socialist agenda seems to be a narrative that plays only to the party’s base. A more compelling Romney would have given the GOP a decided advantage coming out of the convention season. But that did not happen.

The focus is now shifting to the first presidential debate, which will be held on Oct. 3. Until then, both tickets will concentrate on the key swing states, with Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin and New Hampshire quite possibly shaping the outcome of the election.

Unlike Sarah Palin in 2008, it appears that vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has not generated enthusiasm beyond the Republican base. While Palin had her shortcomings, it is on the record that her performance at the RNC in 2008 gave a needed post-convention bounce to the Republican ticket. The failure of Lehman Brothers  in mid September 2008 did much to curb that enthusiasm, but Ryan, a far superior candidate than Palin, seems listless at this stage of the campaign.

Vice President Joe Biden may sometimes appear overexuberant, but he does convey the aura of a reassuring, fatherly figure. And both Obama and Biden have been effective on national security—polls show a 51 per cent approval level on that issue, which is one where Republicans generally score better. It is becoming more evident in recent weeks that the Obama-Biden ticket is capitalizing on the advantages of incumbency.

So the first debate will become a make or break moment for the Romney-Ryan ticket. Romney has steadfastly held to his position on his tax returns, continued to flip flop on issues, shown a poor grasp of foreign policy issues, and failed to give voters a clear Romney at this late stage of the campaign. The first debate will give him another opportunity to engage with the American public without a filter. It might be his last .

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Why the first debate could determine the next president

  1. Just more fawning and slobbering from Obama’s Northern Bureau – Move along folks, nothing to be seen here.

    • Another form comment from a Romneybot. Nothing to see, move along.

      … Seriously, though, what ha’e you been smoking? It isn’t “Obama’s winning” – it’s “Anybody could win”. Geez, these americans are getting more and more like the 50-cent gang.

      • Let’s compare statements on the candidates and keep score, shall we? D means pro-Democrat, R means pro-Republican.

        – Obama has momentum. +1D
        – the debates will showcase character and vision, which favours the Dems. +1D
        – Romney = unclear, feeble, and puzzling. +3D
        – Obama = lustrous, historic, and accomplished. +3D
        – Obama Carter, Romney compelling. +2D
        – Ryan = no enthusiam and listless. +2D
        – Biden = “appears overexuberant” (?), reassuring, fatherly. +2.5D
        – Obama + Biden = national security effectiveness. +2D
        – Romney is stubbornly hiding his tax returns. +1D
        – Romney is a flip-flopper. +1D
        – Romney has a poor grasp of foreign policy issues. +1D
        – Romney = unclear. +1D

        Score: 20.5 pro-Democrat statements, 0 pro-Republican statements.

        So we are left with two possibilities:
        (a) In a piece with 21 separate observations about the candidates on either ticket, it is not possible to list a single good thing about one set of candidates.
        (b) Parisella is a blatant partisan who is trying, whether consciously or unconsciously, to create a narrative rather than analyze reality.

        I think any reasonable reader can tell which of the above is more likely.

        • There is also the possibility that Romney hasn’t been doing the job well. I mean, it is possible that highlighting the areas where he hasn’t shone is because, well, he hasn’t shone in those areas. However, your possibility is strengthened by the last line. Romney is the Republican candidate. He isn’t going to be replaced as the Republican candidate by someone else no matter what he does. So, what the heck does Parisella mean, “it might be his last.” He may muck it up totally, and it may be a painful rest of election season, but he has no other choice but to keep cranking away.

          • You’re missing the point. Even if Romney hasn’t been doing the job well, how likely is it that an objective column can make 21 statements without a single negative about the Dem ticket or a single positive about the Republican ticket?

          • I kind of thing you are missing the point. This wasn’t written as an objective commentary on the U.S. election. This was a piece specifically on in what way Romney hasn’t been doing the job well. Sort of goes against the point of the article to mention things he has done well. Yes, I get that you were looking for an objective piece on the U.S. election. Look elsewhere; this doesn’t pretend to be that.

          • “This wasn’t written as an objective commentary on the U.S. election.”

            Terrific, we agree.

            “Look elsewhere; this doesn’t pretend to be that.”

            It’s Canada’s news magazine. It does pretend to be that.

          • No, silly, this is a blog. It is hosted by Canada’s news magazine. No pretending going on at all.

  2. Why does Quebec have a separate Delegate General than Canada? Do all the provinces have separate delegates?