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Obama’s Clobbering

| October 4, 2012

Night falls on the Obama campaign. (University of Denver)

If Barack Obama loses, as now appears more likely, he can look back on his night in Denver as his mile-down turnaround. For that performance alone he’ll deserve what he gets, though the rest of us waterboarded Obama supporters don’t: we didn’t sign up for a wimp.

Next to Mitt Romney he looked small, diminished, bored. I was expecting him to look at his watch, the way George H.W. Bush did in his debate with Clinton. His haggard demeanor, preferring to (one hopes) scribble notes instead of look at Romney or us, his condescending grins, his Proustian-length answers had more of the second Bush about it than anything remotely audacious. Who the hell was this guy? The answer is depressing.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive I have watched every presidential debate going back to Reagan making catnip of Carter a few days before the 1980 election. Memory and bias play tricks on you, especially in duller debates where neither man appears to have a clear advantage. Dukakis didn’t do badly against Bush, nor for that matter did Mondale against Reagan as I recall. (“There’s a difference between being a quarterback and being a cheerleader, and when there’s a real problem, a President must confront it,” Mondale had said. The nation was too hung up on a cheerleader at the time.) But both lost on style and lack of star power. John Kerry did very well against the second Bush in his first debate, virtually turning around that race, but Bush caught up later on–and even in the first debate Bush never gave the sense that he wasn’t in it to fight.

In Romney-Obama, I have never seen a debate so lopsided. Debates don’t by themselves radically change a race. This one may. There’s too much there for Romney’s camp not to exploit. Romney had his 47 percent slur. Obama now has his 90-minute flip-off to contend with.

It became clear a third of the way through. It only got worse after that. We cringed not because of gaffes or stupid jokes, but because a dinner-theater actor was miscast on a Broadway stage. Romney didn’t merely win–on substance, on delivery, on passion, on connectivity with the 50 million at home (odd number, that 50 million, rhyming as it does with the nation’s uninsured, or the nation’s poor, about whom Romney couldn’t give a flying flick). He demolished the Obama mystique and made the Great Black One look intellectually paler than Bush in his Katrina phase, and just as rudderless.

Obama was simply not there. His first two answers were crisp, relatively short, fluid. But that was the best he gave. The rest of the time, it was as if he was in press conference mode, not debating mode. He reviled sharing the stage with Romney. That came across. That will hurt him most. Say what you will about Romney–his fabulism, his flip-flopping, his empty core–he’s found his inner Reagan, and he’s channeling it to great effect. It’s not about the accuracy of what he says and he knows it. It’s not about the math, and he knows that too (otherwise the colossal trickle-down lies of Reagan and the second Bush would have never earned them four terms between them). It’s about presence. Projecting a fighter’s conviction. Smacking a deceitful opposition.

Obama did none of it. He came with his own talking points and rattled them off. He didn’t engage with Romney. He didn’t smack him down when he made his Gerald Ford-like howler about the non-existence of subsidies for offshoring jobs, or when he kept claiming that he was not cutting taxes for the rich. Romney’s plan is to cut taxes across the board by 20 percent. All tax brackets. That allowed him to pass off that cute deception about not lowering the share of taxes the rich pay. But Obama never seized on the dressed up lie, never explained, alleged professor that he is, that cutting a millionaire’s taxe rate by 20 percent produces a massive windfall that a schmuck making $20,000 couldn’t dream of.

This is the Obama flincher we’ve come to know. The man of a thousand retreats. The prevaricator. The terminated.

Up until last week the question was whether Romney could even hold on to North Carolina and Missouri. But the right-wing’s cheerleaders were right. The race is far from over. Denver may not have been enough for Romney to turn around Ohio and Pennsylvania, but it may well have been enough to turn around Wisconsin, and certainly good enough to turn around Florida, where the greatest selfish generation–the 55-and-over set that’s been dictating the country’s electoral fate since the Reagan devolution–heard exactly what it wanted to hear last night: a president who’ll leave their perks alone but screw everyone else behind them. So they’re in the clear. They can vote and head for the golf links with clear consciences again.

And Florida will tip over to the red column, making Romney’s path to Pennsylvania Avenue that much easier. Romney is also sitting on a pile of cash to flood television screens with his ads, now that the Obama ad wave is spent. So add Colorado to Romney’s mix, and Nevada, and Virginia, and even if Obama holds on to Ohio, Romney gets his 271 electoral votes, and we get his hair conditioner for the next four years.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor and a columnist for Florida Voices, the statewide syndicate, for which a version of this piece was written. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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61 Responses for “Obama’s Clobbering”

  1. It should be abundantly clear now that we need a president we can be PROUD of…and Mitt is…and obama ain’t.

    • Ben Dover says:

      Mitt is not the answer , Mitt and his ilk are the problem , you want another war or two then Mitts your man, the republicans are just itching to go to war with Iran , and with things shaping up the way they are in Syria you can count them in for war number two , or three I should say , Mitt will keep us in Afghanistan as long as he can too , these two wars are what destroyed our economy , we cannot afford to start another war let alone two. Rich republicans love war , they make big money on wars , they have their dirty little paws in the companies that supply wars , so while it may totally destroy our economy, Mitt , Bush , Cheney, Ryan , and our tax evading Gov will all profit big time from them , they don t care about us , money is the only thing that drives then GREED. Do not let all the lies he told you the other night sway your vote , Obama might not be the answer , but Mitt is definitely the Problem.

  2. The Truth says:

    Obama did not do very well during this debate, but the moderator was horrible. He allowed both candidates to go well past their time, he failed to keep control of the debate and lost complete control of the entire debate. I believe that those who are undecided should take into account all three Presidential debates (and the Vice Presidential debate) before making their decision.

  3. The Geode says:

    I will be SO happy when this mess of an election is done with. At this point, I believe it wouldn’t matter who wins the Presidency, Senate, Mayor or dog-catcher. Billions of dollars spent on campaigns pursuing 100,000 jobs seems dishonest to begin with. One guy calling another a liar without clear definition of his own lies is getting tiresome. NO debate is going to change anybody whose mind is already set on who they is going to vote for besides, a lot of states has already early voted and 75% of American voters won’t bother participating in this mess, anyway.

  4. It’s so. Crazy things happen when you don’t have your teleprompter. This wasn’t some commercial where you can just spew blatant lies. He had an actual man, much more Presidential than himself there to rebut his garbage. The 20 something percent of votes he got in polls on the debate were by the blind that will sick up to Obama no matter what. The real numbers are more like 95% for Romney. He got Mittslapped. Plain and simple. Worst Anniversary Ever.

  5. Frank Zedar says:

    Pierre – I know it hurt you to write this piece… yet you wrote it. I watched with skeptical anticipation and was rewarded for having done so. I was on my high school debate team – Romney listened to our coach and the President did not. It’s hard to score these things, yet most would say Romney took this one.
    But you know what I saw – much deeper than the two combatants? I saw a country where this actually takes place! A televised debate between the nation’s top political adversaries… for everyone to see… warts and all. And no matter who wins, that alone makes this a great place to call home.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Frank, no question. I’m still enormously moved by that fact, whoever the contenders, whatever the outcome, especially considering where I came from. I’ll never lose that appreciation.

      Patti, what about the welfare queens? Forgot to mention that good old myth among your inelegant prejudices. Selfish and bigoted.

  6. patti bissonnette says:

    Pierre, I am offended by your comment about the selfish 55 and over who will vote and head for the golf links! The most selfish generation? wtf? How many have served our country and payed taxes as they worked hard all their live??? This is typical liberal media bullshit. You want to talk about selfish? Try those who refuse to get a job, but have money for tatoos, long done up nails, designer clothes and purses..while they pay their groceries with food stamps??? They buy their cigarettes with cash…that comes out of the 55 and over taxes. I am 55 and will vote…and not be heading to the golf coarse. I will be voting to end the free rides of lazy individual who use welfare as a way of life for generations! Many of the 55 and over are middle or middle-lower class who are responsible Americans who WORK, pay taxes and help out those who are truly in need…not the freeloaders. We may not have much..but we take care of our own families and families we don’t even know. So please think twice before you pass judgment on an entire group of people…selfish we are not!!!!

    • Ruth says:

      Patti, I agree, when I read the comment about the “greatest selfish generation–the 55-and-over set” It made my blood boil. I will vote, and then I will go to work, why? Because I am the “greatest selfish generation–the 55-and-over set” if that is selfish, then so be it. But there are alot of us selfish 55 and over people out there who have been working since we were 16. We worked and raised a family and paid taxes out of every single paycheck. Gee selfish – why because I cook my own food and eat at home because I can’t afford to eat out. Selfis -why because I don’t pay to have someone cut my lawn I cut it myself because I can’t afford to pay someone else. Selfish, why because I stay at a job I hate because I can’t afford to retire let alone afford the health insurance? I was enjoying your article until I got to that stupid comment, look up your facts and see what makes up the middle class and poor working class – I think you will find it is the “greatest selfish generation–the 55-and-over set”!!

    • Magnolia says:

      Patti, Standing Ovation to you. Thanks for saying what so many of us have been feeling while we have been called racists, heartless, uncaring, “selfish and bigoted”.

      I thought that Romney showed us all last night what a great debate should be. This was the best I have seen in about 20 years. He proved to me that he is ready and definitely qualified to be President.

      As for those who would rather spend time on the golf course, that 55 and selfish crowd, this President has proved to us all that is where HE would prefer to be. Are you now going to call him selfish and bigoted as well?

  7. Dorothea says:

    @The Truth

    In addition to all you said, the debate was also mind-numbing boring. Mitt the motor mouth used car salesman vs. Barry boring and asleep at the switch. One additional comment, Mitt has finally remade himself into his true identity: nasty, rude, and overbearing. One wonders how such a personality could ever negogiate with anyone whether in foreign policy or with Congress. His redux into a moderate must have taken quite a lot of Etch-a-Sketch shaking.

    The Committee to Save Big Bird and Fire Jim Lehrer


    Can’t wait for Biden to open his mouth. Both Obama and Biden should be forbidden to speak, that is he only chance they have to put a winning campaign in order.
    Hats off to Romney, he came across prepared and ready for the challenge.

    • Ben Dover says:

      He was Rehearsed , when he had to debate an issue with Obama he had to go all the back to the beginning of his rehearsal 1 blah blah blah 2 lie lie lie , he talked over Obama and the moderator , he`s a lying blow hard that cares nothing about this country or its people, all he cares about is money, and there will never be enough of it for him , and he will start another senseless war , lie his way into it just like his predecessor Bush did , you people need to wake up and damn fast , if you elect this idiot who already told you when he thought no one was listening m, he does not care about half the country, only the ones with money that can help make him richer , if he gets in office we are all screwed so bad it isn t funny.

  9. MSFB says:

    Sorry, but the moderator had nothing to do with Obama’s poor performance. Obama showed exactly what 65% of the educated people in this country already knew and that is he is a spineless wimp and that is why this country continues to spiral out of control. All he did is spew the same crap he did 4 years ago, which is nothing more than meaningless rhetoric. You asked for specifics, where have yours been for the last 3.5 years Mr Obama care? What you said about you Obama care could have been put on one page. What about the other 1999 pages? Good reddens!

    • Ben Dover says:

      Well how bout this fact ,how bout the president has real world issues on his mind , he has more to deal with and think about in a day then anyone of us will ever dream of , all Mitt had to do was memorize his lies , he didn t have to deal with Syria firing missiles into Turkey hrs before the debate, or more Afghan police turning on American soldiers, bombs still killing Americans in Bagdad, thats just a few of the pressing things Obama had to deal with while he calculated in his head how many lies Mitt was spewing forth , you people don t get it , a debate is a very unfair, lopsided thing for the President to have to deal with, you can tell Obama wasn t rehearsed like Mitt , he stopped and actually thought about what he was saying , Romney just blurted out all the lies he memorized , and blurted them out over the other two people in the debate , before he forgot, can`t you people see a person with no moral fiber when he standing right in front of you , his walk , his body language , his sneers and uppity personality scream …..DO NOT TRUST I feel sorry for people who can be fooled by this transparent greedy souless individual.

  10. Amy Hamal-Canna says:

    oh please. Game Changer off of one debate? Really if people are so stupid to change their minds on who they were going to vote for off of who “said” the best things during the debate then they shouldn’t vote at all.

  11. Bryan Pereira says:

    Its easy to win a debate when you lie about everything you say..

  12. Samuel Smith says:

    My advice: vote based upon what you realistically know about the candidates, and take a look at some of the post-debate fact checking before you decide.

    That said, if you are using debate performance to seal your choice you are probably better off using the daily horoscope. The role of president is far, far more than poorly-moderated public debate peppered with zingers, and I suspect that unlike the sitting president Romney’s had ample preparation of work on his bullet points. That’s why sitting presidents almost always do terrible during presidential debates.

    Like I said: check the facts.

    • fred8131 says:

      Let’s. How’s the debt doing? How’s gas prices? How’s the value of the dollar doing? How’s home values doing? How’s black unemployment doing? How’s U.S. unfunded liabilities doing? How’s health care costs doing? By the way, did you get your free cell phone yet? How well do the people in the middle east love us today? How secure are our borders? How are all those people that have given up on looking for jobs doing on disability? How’s the morale of our troops overseas? How’s the morale of our trrops at home? How are all the new people on food stamps doing? How’s the occupy movement doing? For a nation of laws hows the cabinet members doing while campaining on the taxpayer’s dime doing; which is against the law. I won’t mention the administration’s advice to government contractors to break the law and not warn employees about the possibility of being layed off in the near future. How’s the keystone piple doing; you know the one that would produce jobs; the thing Obama is focused on like a laser. How’s the family median income doing for you, down about 2k+ per family. How’s those GE jobs that Obama’s buddy Immelt sent to China doing for you? Want more?

      Dorothea, So, it’s the moderator’s fault and Romney’s job is to entertain you? BAAAAA

      Deep South, No liberals are the intolerent one’s tearing us apart.

      • Samuel Smith says:

        Contrary to popular belief, the desk at the oval office doesn’t have two big levers with “jobs” and “gas prices” labeled on them that obama can move at will. How much of what you’ve listed is related to congress’ inability to move forward with anything, and how much is related to the european economic situation? In case you haven’t noticed, the world’s economy is screwed up and not just ours.

        I’m not a huge fan of obama, but you are deluded if you think Romney’s platform stands for a balanced budget or job creation. When Romney was CEO of Bain capital, he focused on borrowing huge sums of money to do hostile takeovers, raided what he could from their assets, and then attached the remaining debt to the taken-over company, e.g. KB Toys, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc. that generally sank the company and caused people to lose jobs, and he had no problems at all sucking on the goverment’s teat when Bain was close to bankruptcy.

        Again, fact check what was said by both candidates.

  13. fred8131 says:

    You got what you paid for!

  14. Deep South says:

    The 2 party system is tearing the democracy and country apart.

  15. Lonewolf says:

    I think people like our right wing author saw what he wanted to see. Obama could easily rip Romney aprt with flip-flopping and his choice of Ryan (Voucher care and prizefighting SS) but he held back and listened to Romney lie about health care tax cuts, medicare and how much he cares about the average Joe. My advice to the President is feel feel to use Romney’s dislike of the poor and his flip-flopping against him. Stop being nice and “stretch the truth” like the GOP does.

  16. Mario DiGirolamo says:

    4 years of being Pres during the worst time in our history will tend to drain a person. After all … he’s only human. He will get a well deserved second term.

  17. Richard Hamilton says:

    Like you Pierre I should be out there supporting Obama, as I was in 2008, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for him this time round. He squandered my vote, just as he has squandered so many opportunities to deliver on his previous message of hope and change.

    I too am voting for GARY JOHNSON, the Libertarian candidate. Social Liberty and fiscal Conservatism.

  18. Netracer says:

    The two guys last night are so close in thier policy and ideology that you may as well just flip a coin and vote. The two party system was always rigged, and now it’s just broken. How about an actual change? PLEASE check out and vote for Gary Johnson.

  19. Frances says:

    The election isn’t over yet. Obama did not do well in the debate and Romney did. However, Romney’s campaign has said that it will not be controlled by “Fact Checkers.” That’s pretty obvious after the lack of honesty in Romney’s answers. Be careful who you wish to be president. You may find the next four years of a Republican presidency quite different than the picture that was painted last night.

  20. I'm Not Saying...I'm Just Saying says:

    Just think of how much better debates would be if the moderator could stop the candidate in mid-sentence. Whenever they said they’ll do X, he’s allowed to say just one word- HOW?

  21. Jim R. says:

    I have a weak stomach so I couldn’t watch the R&O debate, so I watched Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson. I haven’t decided whether It will be Jill or Rocky, but one of them will get my vote.

  22. Karma says:

    Rush said it best: Obama came off even worse in his debate with Romney last night than he did in his debate with Clint Eastwood,”

  23. roco says:

    Bryan.. When do you know when Obama is not telling the truth? When his lips are moving..

  24. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    Can’t believe everybody is falling for this. Barack Obama is a shrewd attorney and when it comes to closing arguments you only get one shot at it. Makes no sense at this point in time to state the obvious about Romneys past weeks. The Media pretty much dictated how this was gonna go, “water Romney down don’t look for much. Obama has to be careful not to appear to over shadow and bully him”. Each party played and reacted to plan. Now FOX, CNN, MSNBC pundits and broadcasters have amnesia. Romney exposed himself, Obama laid back. Next debate everything Romney put out will be debated and put to the test with passion and vigor once and for all no where to run no where to hide. CHESS vs CHECKERS.

    • fred8131 says:

      Yup, next debate will have a new moderator, will be at ground level to negate the 5000 foot altitude effect, Obama will be allowed to have a telepromptor and the debt will be cut in half and unemployment numbers will be cut in half.

      • Dorothea says:

        @fred 8131

        Having lived at an altitude above 5000 ft sea level and tended to my out of town friends and relatives who became extremely ill from altitude sickness, I can assure you that the illness is very real. Even the best running cars become inoperable at that altitude.

        • Magnolia says:

          Romney was at 5,000 ft. Perhaps Obama is not healthy enough to run for President?

          • Dorothea says:


            Altitude sickness has many variables. Time to adjust to the thin air is one. Romney had been in Denver in air conditioned comfort for days, not a few hours and had time to adjust to not only the altitude, but to the horrendous air pollution that accumulates in Denver where it gets trapped by the Rocky Mountains. Besides, Romney had nothing better do to than adjust to the climate and work on his lies while updating his multiple personalities to the latest version of Romney.

        • fred8131 says:

          Yes, altitude sickness, that’s the ticket. It was all in the master plan. Put some thick air around him and he can’t think. Maybe that’s when the Iranians should attack; when he is coming down from 5000 feet. Have you ever traveled above 5000 feet in AF One. I think not. How did we ever popularise commericial flying.

  25. DWFerg says:

    Thanks for calling a spade a spade—Romney dusted the floor w/ Pres. Obama- What is so refreshing is to see an honest assessment of this one sided debate from a very opinionated, left leaning liberal blogger. I enjoy reading your articles and learning how others view the world- It’s what makes America the beautiful !

  26. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    Romney & Ryan = The Tin Man & Pinocchio. The first guy is heartless, the seconds nose just keeps growing from the lies he tells and FOX news is the fairy tale world they live in.

  27. NortonSmitty says:

    OK, after this performance we can laugh at the accusations of Muslim, Socialist, and Kenyan, but there is no defense for the WingNuts claim he is incompetent. How could he possibly be so unprepared,and timid when we all know this was a chance to put Mittster away for the count while he was reeling! Forget about looking like he had never had a real debate, he looked like he had never even seen a real debate! Being this caviler and disinterested is just unbelievable! Even the die-hard supporters as well as the thousands of people like me who used to be supporters, but planned on showing up to vote for him as the lesser of two evils will be even more discouraged. How many will now stay home from bothering to vote after this debacle! Why has it come to this?

    How did he allow this soulless automaton with his documented record of stacking the deck for his over compensated Class tack to the reasonable middle unchallenged? A 7th grade rookie on the debate team would not let him disavow his record of destroying entire communities by “Harvesting” assets from viable companies that it’s workers helped build with years of their labor? Why would he remain silent as this despicable pension vulture feigns compassion for the poor and elderly and not even mention the 47% video where he said “Those people are not my concern…”? After a long primary contest that he won by out-fascisting Bachman, Perry, Gingrich and even Rick Santorum, we won’t dare mention the passionate words of contempt he has on record regarding these working people today? The 180 degree turn from his moderate record he chucked to win over the most vile, unwashed and half-educated fringe that controls the Republican party today over those poltroons, those words are off-limits in this debate? WTF!

    Not one of your political advisers told you this was serious? Axlerod never grabbed you by the throat and screamed a rant that included the words “Knife Fight”? This is the reason Independents are growing as a percentage of registered voters: A lot of people are too embarrassed to admit they are Democrats. I’ve got your new Democratic Party slogan: “Vote Democrat, It’s better to support the Incompetent than the Evil”.

    This is just depressing.

  28. NortonSmitty says:

    The best explanation I’ve seen is “This is what you get when you use John Kerry as you debate practice partner”.

  29. Dorothea says:

    Romney Tells 27 Myths In 38 Minutes

    “….But Romney only accomplished this goal by repeatedly misleading viewers. He spoke for 38 minutes of the 90 minute debate and told at least 27 myths…”

  30. Jack Stewart says:

    Come on folks, dont beat up on the Great O…. It wasnt a fair debate…He didnt have his teleprompter in front of him to tell him what to say !!!

  31. Anon says:

    If one takes the time to think about the statements the Romney represented as fact you will see that the only thing that he truthfully represented was his name.

    Don’t confuse being good on stage with being someone who can hold the office of President of the US.

    Romney has yet another story about his 47% comment.

    As Ted Kennedy told him during their debate that he changes so much in two weeks he’ll be voting for me.

  32. Karma says:

    You want to marginalize Heritage for being to extreme right wing, yet here is one of the awards Think Progress received: Think Progress was voted “Best Liberal Blog” in the 2006 Weblog Awards and chosen as an Official Honoree in the 2009 and 2012 Webby awards.
    I also looked up what Awards Heritage has received and could not find any “best conservative blog” What was even more amazing was there staffs bio’s. Compare them to Think progress. Maybe the Brookings Institute would be a better choice for your liberal leaning.

  33. Dorothea says:


    Don’t confuse sourcing facts with sourcing opinions.

  34. Dorothea says:

    This article from the Washington Post, while it doesnt address President Obama’s lackluster performance in the debate, does explain a lot about just what Mitt Romney is not:

    Moderate Mitt isn’t so moderate

    Excerpt from the article:

    “Keep these policies in mind as you consider the agenda that brought us “Moderate Mitt” in last Wednesday’s debate. Romney promised he wouldn’t raise a cent in taxes to retire a debt far larger than the one George H. W. Bush faced. He had nothing at all to say about climate change. He said health-care reform should proceed state-by-state, but he proposed Medicaid cuts that would make it impossible for any other states to do what Massachusetts did in 2006. He offered no short-term help to the unemployed, proposing instead to concentrate on long-term initiatives like energy independence. He again proclaimed allegiance to his budget promises, which would mean a 40 percent cut in everything but Medicare, Social Security and defense spending by 2016, though the only specific cut he mentioned was to PBS.”

  35. BW says:

    I think this is a great assessment of the debate. What is even more positive about this article is this is the type of honest discussions that we need more of. We all have our likes, dislikes, and candidate preferences; but it’s become difficult to have just honest discussions when it comes to politics. So thank you for such a great job, Pierre.

    I was surprised personally by Romney’s performance. I thought he did a great job as well. I expected more from the President and was really concerned to be hearing almost the exact same thing we heard 4 years ago. What bothers me the most at this point with President Obama is the fact that he ran a campaign 4 years with a lot of talk about being someone who “reaches across the aisle”. And here we are 4 years later with some of the worst political division that I remember ever seeing in my lifetime. It’s a climate that is causing more problems than we already have and his actions are not doing anything to bring anyone together.

    If anything this should be a close turnout in November and it will be interetsing to see which way it ends up.

    Thanks again, Pierre.

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