So, it appears that Mitt Romney isn’t a robot after all. Who’d have thought it? Engaging, lively, still a little sneer-prone and not all that likeable, the Mittster took the fight to an oddly quiet Obama. Looking tired, POTUS remained resolutely within himself, declining easy pitches he could have smashed out of the park with sure-fire home run answers that have served his ad campaigns so well. Some reports suggest the dampened performance was deliberate and grounded in the cold hard reality of polling data. Others have suggested a tired president simply mirrors a tired presidency. Pundits can’t even agree on whether or not any of this matters, although a humorous media scramble is evident in the rush to suggest that debates are rarely decisive given Romney won this but is likely to lose on November 6th.
So what do I think’? Does it matter that Romney won? Yes. This was his last chance to try to get some traction and gain some momentum. His campaign will feel rejuvenated by the victory and he appeared to be a real – if still not particularly pleasant – human being. That is an improvement. Is it a ‘game changer’? No. There were no ‘zingers’ delivered that can achieve anywhere near the impact of Romney’s earlier gaffes. No one line brought in the 47% he has so spectacularly written off.
The next debate will take a Town Hall format. The third debate, in the crucial swing state of Florida, will focus on foreign policy: a policy area in which Obama is seen to hold the upper hand. In POLM024 and POL3065 this semester, we will follow the ebbs and flows of the election campaign, considering what the outcome of the election will mean for US foreign policy in the next four years. A quick straw poll in week 1 of classes delivered a unanimous verdict: Obama is expected to win and current polling still supports that. There’s a greater chance of this happening if Obama can match Romney’s ability to step up his game in round 2.
Dr Jack Holland (Twitter: @drjackholland)
Lecturer in International Relations