Opinion: In all Four Critical Ways, Obama Won the Town Hall Debate

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 10:29 AM

US President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney debate on October 16, 2012 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. US President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney debate on October 16, 2012 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The second Presidential debate was a very animated event. The wireless mike walk around format allowed both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to get close to voters as they asked questions and also got into each other’s space and face. Town Hall meetings are not supposed to be “mano a mano” but the candidates ignored the format – thank God. This was more dynamic.

I won’t recap blow by blow because you saw it or can read the narrative in many great post-debate columns. To me there were several important benchmarks I needed answered with just weeks before Election Day.

First of all President Obama needed to correct his dispirited performance in the first debate. He accomplished that and went beyond with expressive body language, energy, and some very testonsteroney push back in several exchanges with Mitt Romney. Mission accomplished.

Second, we were all carefully assessing Mitt Romney’s encore to judge it against his first debate performance. I concluded that he may have gone a little over the top. He was on the verge of rude and moderator Candy Crowley had a hard time keeping him under control. But, he did hold his own and showed he is determined and take charge – he is the CEO!

Third, did this influence undecided voters? As the event progressed I became more and more convinced that “independent” voters are yearning for answers. I know independent voters. Independent voters are friends (and students) of mine. This debate was exactly what undecided voters do NOT like – a heightened example of partisanship, of two people who clearly don’t like each other bickering, a confusion of issues with answers that probably made no sense to independents.

Fourth, we all wanted to assess if the debate helped or hurt each of the candidates with their own base and supporters. Democrats were able to cheer on a feisty Obama who seemed to really believe in his policies and in their causes (women’s rights, green energy, fairer taxes, positive government as an engine for the economy.) Obama injected new enthusiasm into his supporters. It will probably help boost his turnout.

For Republicans, Romney scored a direct hit. He did not let Obama off the hook on Benghazi. But when he tried to slam Obama on women’s pay equity –  using the phrase “Women in a Binder” became the “killing Big Bird” of the evening. This has exploded into an avalanche of Internet memes.

The verdict was that Obama “won” the overall debate but we should note that Mitt Romney scored higher in the CNN poll on some specific issues such as taxes.

Here are some numbers from the CBS News poll that was conducted online during the date via “probability-based panel” designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 525 uncommitted voters who had agreed to watch the debate. 

“Moments following the debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., 37 percent of voters polled said the president won, 30 percent awarded the victory to Romney, and 33 percent called it a tie... As for who would do a better job of handling the economy, the president made some headway on closing that gap. Before the debate, 71 percent said they believed Romney would, while only 27 percent said they thought Obama would; after the debate, 34 percent said the president would better handle the economy, with 65 percent saying Romney would."

Obama would also be more likely to help the middle class, according to 56 percent of voters after the debate, compared with 43 percent who said that about Romney.

Clearly debate three will be critically interesting (notice I did not say important). If things continue in the direction they are now moving Barack Obama may have articles of impeachment launched at him by the Republicans in the House for his failure to call the Benghazi, Libya disaster a “terrorist attack.” After all, they impeached Clinton for not having sex with Monica Lewinsky in the White House.


More in:

Comments [3]

@listener -

Only in the bizarroland winger-verse are the President words " acts of terror..." given in a speech in the Rose Garden the DAY AFTER the Benghazi attack considered him not calling it an 'act of terror'. Puh-lease. You guys spend so much energy denying science, denying quotes, mis-attributing quotes, altogether creating an alternate reality that I am surprised that you have the energy to type. You clearly do not have the energy do do your own thinking.
In the winger-verse, I'd bet you all think that Nixon was not a crook.

@Steffen -

The GOP impeached Clinton for not having "sexual relations" with "that woman...Ms. Lewinsky". Fellatio is sex, just not pro-creative sex and therefore not 'sexual relations' as defined by most law dictionaries. Clinton relied on the legal definition. Paula Jones' lawyers were either uncomfortable or unable to use frank language. Clinton did deny having an inappropriate relationship with ML and later recanted that and recognized that an intern fellating the boss was inappropriate. Gosh! In his deposition, Clinton ran rings around the lawyer'ing done by Paula Jones paltry legal team. They were legally and verbally outgunned. He committed no perjury during the deposition but he was less than completely honest. Being less than honest is not an impeachable offense. If Ken Starr had not inappropriately used his authority to badger Monica into producing the dress(!) this entire exercise would have ended with no charge of impeachment. The reason the GOP impeached him was that they could and they had the votes. Completely political. No principles involved that I can see. Colossal waste of time and energy, wasn't it. Some GOP'ers continue to believe that the Nixon impeachment was political but evidence that the President knew about, directed and financed the Plumbers is a 'high crime'. Only in the winger-verse are they the same.

Oct. 21 2012 11:20 AM

"...moderator Candy Crowley had a hard time keeping him under control".

Not to mention keeping herself under control with her complete botching of the feeble yet unsurprising rescue attempt of Obama's fib about calling Libya a terrorist attack.
Obama lies, the media dutifully enables the lie and the "nonpartisans" cheer the lie.
That pretty much sums up the Obama era.
Indeed most of the "nonpartisan" questions that she vetted seem to massage the Obama campaign narrative.
Apparently Crowley cannot be called "magnificent" for letting her partisan mask slip in such an obvious way.

Oct. 17 2012 09:14 PM


Oct. 17 2012 12:50 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at



Supported by