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After much hype and anticipation, the presidential candidates finally met for their first presidential debate last night, Oct.3, at the University of Denver. Most media and polls are calling Mitt Romney the winner, but the fact-checkers may say otherwise.
Here are Gavel Media's five take-aways from the debate:
1. Debates can still be substantive, but this isn't always good for viewers
The debate was surprisingly technical and serious, especially the first 15 minutes and the back and forth exchanges about tax policies. This is good and bad. The good is obviously that it gives voters actual policy and substance to think about and base their vote on, instead of just meaningless rhetoric (like at the convention). The bad is that some of it got so technical that it surely went over many viewers heads and bored them, for example the discussions about acts like the Simpson-Bowles commission or the Dodd-Frank Act. It is still unclear how well the debate won over undecided voters, who the candidates are trying to convince.
2. Obama's missed opportunities
Much of the discussion following the debate seems to be about Barack Obama's missed opportunities. Romney seemed to be on the offense, while Obama was on the defense. Romney was aggressive and on top of things, with crisp responses, while Obama was long-winded and halting. The biggest miss seems to be the lack of any mention of the '47 percent', which the campaign hopes to use to show how Romney is out of touch with Americans. Another missed opportunity came when discussing his healthcare bill. Obama considers this his greatest accomplishment as president, but in a back and forth about the specifics of the bill Obama missed the opportunity to personalize the issue and sell why it was such a big accomplishment.
3. Romney has been working on his jokes
Romney has drawn criticism throughout the campaign for being awkward and impersonal during campaign events. Many of his attempts at light humor have failed (see “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.") He redeemed himself last night with several well-received jokes.
Our favorite: After Obama started his response by mentioning that it was his and Michelle's 20th wedding anniversary, Romney responded by saying, "I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine, here with me."
Our least favorite: Using Big Bird to divert attention from the fact that he wants to cut federal funding for PBS.
4. Jim Lehrer had a rough night
No one is saying moderating a presidential debate should be easy, but Lehrer had a rough time trying to moderate the candidates. Many have complained that he asked vague questions and he didn't keep the candidates on topic. He could not keep the responses within the time constraints, and at one point Romney, cut him off and declared that he deserved to keep talking. Not only is his performance being panned, but Romney proposed cutting his job: "I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," Romney said. "I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I'm not going to — I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That's number one."
5. Big Bird is on the chopping block
Romney may have been trying to appear funny and relatable, but despite his 'I love Big Bird' comment, the truth is he was proposing cutting funding to PBS. It was made even more awkward by the fact that Jim Lehrer, the moderator, used to work for PBS. Social media loved the Big Bird comment, and Twitter said that just after Romney's remarks, users were posting 17,000 tweets per minute mentioning Big Bird. Soon after, spoof accounts starting popping up, such as @FiredBigBird. Is it just an indication that Romney is out of touch with the young people who grew up watching Sesame Street?
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.