GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney clearly defeated President Barack Obama in the third presidential debate held Monday night at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Unlike viewers witnessed in the last two presidential debates, Bob Schieffer, who was the moderator of the debate from CBS News, was more even-handed in his method of questioning and in his responsiveness to the two candidates. There were no controversies as caused by CNN correspondent Candy Crowley’s unjust insertion regarding Libya or other inappropriate interferences. The third debate with Schieffer’s degree of fairness and professionalism, naturally, allowed a more honest debate emerge for the viewers.
Romney obviously had goals for the night regarding proper decorum. He did not fall into the distasteful argumentation that took place in the second presidential debate with President Obama. Obama spent the better part of the debate making personal attacks at Romney in a very “un-presidential” manner. Obama should have learned from the polls taken after the last debate that this type of exchange completely turned a substantial number of that debate’s viewers off. Romney responded to what the polls said people wanted: ideas and not personal attacks at one another. Romney summed up that public concern when he said after one of Obama’s attacks thrown early in the debate: “Attacking me is not an agenda.” However, even that assertion didn’t stop Obama from continuing his attacks on Romney throughout the debate.
Romney also appeared to surprise Obama with the data that rolled off his tongue. Why this surprised Obama is unclear. The president should have known from the last two debates that Romney is very data-driven and knows his facts, inside-out.
Besides the personal attacks, President Obama appeared mad when Romney was speaking rather than being a respectful listener and responder as people are expected to do in a debate. And continuing his “Biden-esque” behaviors from the second debate – though on a smaller scale – Obama was the sole participant who often interrupted the other debater.
With all of Obama’s personal attacks against Romney, he appeared to be the challenger while Romney came across as much more “presidential” and in control of his strongly and clearly stated ideas. If Romney’s purpose was to look more in control and look like a dignified leader, he totally accomplished his goal.
Of course, there are those who will say Romney should have fought back harder and not taken the attacks from the president, but that’s what he did in the second debate – and both candidates were criticized for their demeanor in that contest. Romney, many feel, was wise to avoid the petty confrontations and stick to the messages he wanted delivered.
In fact, Romney was so against a huge confrontation that would likely have turned off viewers again that he didn’t even press the Libya issue which caused the biggest argument in the last presidential debate. He totally avoided confrontation while respectfully presenting his views and proposed policies.
Another positive for Romney in this debate was the overall setting. This roundtable discussion is one of Romney’s many comfortable, experienced styles of debating. Where Obama presents himself best is not in this arrangement. He comes across much better when he is on his feet, speaking to his followers, and feeding off the audience. Of course, that wasn’t possible in this setting. All he could give the camera was his words and facial expressions. Unfortunately, he looked angry much of the time he wasn’t speaking. There was obviously no crowd before him for audience reaction – which he normally feeds off of positively.
Both candidates had good lines. While Romney kept reassuring Americans that America is great but can be better – in terms of foreign affairs as well as domestic – Obama had his one-liners, which were reportedly Twitter-user-pleasers, such as his comment about bayonets and horses – although it was an obvious statement. Of course very few horses and bayonets are used in 2012 as compared to World War I. It sounded like the type of line Obama likely memorized from days of rehearsal for the debate to make Romney look out of touch with the military. Yet, Romney still kept his constant cool – which came across very positively.
Not to be insulting, but let’s face it – many people who watched the debate probably don’t know the difference between what’s going on in Syria than in Egypt, in Iran than in Afghanistan, in China than in Russia. What they do understand are the references to domestic affairs that were wisely worked into the conversation, primarily by Romney. And more than that, they understand what they saw and heard a presidential-looking and sounding Romney and a mad, personal-attacking, interrupting president who came across more like the challenger than the leader.
About Scott Paulson
Scott Paulson writes political commentary for Examiner.com and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.