What can we learn from watching these debates?
It seemed in the first debate that Obama was weak and not trying very hard. Where was the old Obama? He came back in the second and the third was definitely his.
Why did he win this last debate?
Obama had poise and command. He gave us the impression of a President, a man of decision, authority and confidence.
Romney had done well earlier but now seemed to have lost his confidence.
It is these impressions, however subtle, that viewers perceive, sometimes only subconsciously, that make all the difference.
Command: The President actually seemed to be channelling Governor Romney from the first debate. He was strong of voice, interruptive, turned most questions to attacks, and seemed to take command. Obama also had more detail and examples than Romney. (Of course one might expect that as the President has been briefed in detail on foreign policy for almost 4 years.)
Eye Communication: In this split screen we see the candidates up close and magnified. Obama looked at Romney as he talked with a directness and seriousness that was effective. Much the opposite of Biden in the Vice Presidential debate (smirk, laughing, etc.) And his eye communication was well placed to often glance at Moderator Schieffer while Romney is finishing, almost to say “I’m ready – call on me.”
Governor Romney lost in experiential terms because he lost his spark. It’s not that he was as low energy as Obama was in the first debate, but he was:
Deferential: He probably agreed with Obama a couple of dozen times, most of them stated verbally. Not what you really want in a challenger in a high stakes debate like this. Perhaps he didn’t want to confront, but it not only takes energy away, it sets a mind set for missed opportunities. Romney did not confront on the Libya mess and security lapse for openers, and perhaps a half dozen other issues.
Eye Communication: For some reason Romney rarely looked at Obama, but kept his gaze on Schieffer most of the time. Now that’s OK, but the few times he lofted an attack on Obama he should have looked directly at Obama – making it more personal and more powerful. By comparison with Obama he lacked power and directness – purely from eye communication.
The facts matter in a debate like this, but only a little in the eyes of the people (voters). On the radio results can be quite different with the audience restricted to listening to the content of speech. On the TV the words become less important and other factors take over. In this age of multi media we must present a consistent message that gives people confidence.
At the end of the day, Obama seemed confident and in control. H
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