A clear consensus: Romney wins first debate

Last Wednesday, I sat down with the Manitoban’s managing editor Chuthan Ponnampalam and sports editor Marc Lagace to watch the first U.S. Presidential Debate of the 2012 presidential campaign. We sat around a computer in the Manitoban office, watching the debate live streamed on CNN.com, which gave us a great opportunity to discuss and process the debate as it happened. Through that discussion, our consensus was that Mitt Romney was the winner, a consensus that has been confirmed by much of the post debate coverage.

I recognize that it can be difficult to find unbiased coverage of political events. Since many news organizations target their opinions towards supporters of specific political parties, there can be widely varying reporting on events like debates. What is important to look for then, is not the opinion of one or two news organizations, but an overall trend and sentiment that takes many different perspectives into account.

To give you as balanced an overview as possible of last Wednesday’s debate, I have compiled some quotes and statistics from news outlets and individuals across the political spectrum, as well as two folks right here at the Manitoban. Here they are:

“[Romney] seemed like he was happy to be there debating, President Obama gave you the impression that this whole thing was kind of a lot of trouble [ . . . ] I do think that Romney had a good night. I think he wanted to be there, I think he knew he needed this, and I think Obama just gave a sense that he wasn’t happy to be there.”
—Democratic consultant James Carville on CNN

“I think Governor Romney was definitely more crisp in his presentation tonight. He was leaning into the debate, where President Obama was a little bit more laid back. I also think he was able to be aggressive without being offensive. So, even though there were – I didn’t see any knockout punches.”
—ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos

“Look, you know how much I love the guy, and how much of a high-info viewer I am, but this was a disaster for Obama.”
—Commentator and blogger Andrew Sullivan

“From the very first answer of this 90-minute debate in Denver, Colorado, Mr. Romney took command of an occasion that pundits and public alike had largely presumed Mr. Obama would win. As it turned out on the night, they were wrong…”
“And it was vitality that was in short supply for Mr. Obama last night. He will have infuriated his supporters with a strangely stilted, passive performance; searching for his own lines, and then refusing to make eye contact with Mr Romney when it was his opponent’s turn to speak.”
—Peter Foster, the Telegraph’s U.S. editor

A CNN poll of debate-watchers found Romney very clearly ahead, with 67 per cent of registered voters saying he won the debate, against just 25 per cent for Obama.

A CBS News poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 46 per cent siding with Romney, 22 per cent for Obama and 32 per cent saying it was a tie.

“Tonight was a big win for Mitt Romney. He dominated the debate in every way. This wasn’t even close.”
—Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe

“It wasn’t just Mitt Romney’s strong performance. It was President Obama’s amazingly weak one. He’s never been punctured before. But by debate’s end Wednesday night, if you opened the window this is what you could hear: Ssssssss. The soft hiss of air departing from a balloon.”
“And—amazingly again—he did it to himself. He didn’t fight, he didn’t show, he wasn’t awake and hungry. He just said the same-old-same-old and let it go. He couldn’t even meet Mr. Romney’s gaze, never mind his arguments.”
—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

And what did my fellow Manitoban debate watchers Chuthan and Marc think?

“I was surprised by positions Romney took considering what I’ve heard from the media, that being said I was surprised by how well Romney did, and how little fire Obama threw at him.”
—Marc Lagace, the Manitoban sports editor

“I just don’t believe Obama came prepared for the debate, and Romney seemed like he wanted it, and he got it.”
—Chuthan Ponnampalam, the Manitoban managing editor

The consensus seems clear: Romney was the winner of the first U.S. Presidential Debate. The results of the debate will likely narrow the polls, and some voter surveys show Romney closing the gap, or taking a slight lead in some of the crucial swing states. If a week ago the conventional wisdom was that Romney’s chances were slipping away, his performance in the debate has given his campaign a new lease on life.

Romney had to prove that he was a credible challenger who could hold his own on the same stage as Obama. He accomplished this. Now, with less than a month until Election Day, and two more Presidential debates to go, the presidential race resumes on a more even footing and appears headed for a close finish.

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on the debate and the election. Who do you think won? What part stood out for you the most? Leave a comment below if you would like to share your thoughts.

Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.