I’m back — with a different view of the first debate

The Blue Screen of Death greeted me at the office this morning, suggesting my laptop wasn’t ready for its autumn vacation to end. Nonetheless, albeit belatedly …

I’m back.

It was a good trip, but it’s even better to get back here right in the swing of the election season, with just under a month to go until election time.

The big story while I was gone, of course, was last week’s debate between Mitt Romney and Clint Eastwood’s Empty Chair President Obama. The consensus is that Romney won handily, and the opinion polls show a much-tightened race as a result: Not only is Obama’s lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls down to just 1.1 percentage point, but Romney is up to his highest level in the past year, over 47 percent on average.

Without getting into details from the debate’s exchanges which y’all have probably already read many times during the past several days, I do want to make one observation. I watched the debate in its entirety on CNN International, but not until it was rebroadcast about 10 hours later. Just before the replay began, CNN ran through the day’s headlines — including the belief among analysts and even a snap poll of undecided viewers that Romney was the runaway winner. Intrigued, my dad and I watched with the expectation of a blow-out performance by Romney. I think it’s fair to say we both thought he won the debate, but not as easily as we’d been led to believe.

As I understand it, this contrasts significantly with the expectations set for most Americans who watched it live. From what I hear, the lead-up to the debate framed it more as the beginning of a month-long wake for Romney’s campaign. His lack of a convention bounce and much-parsed comments about the “47 percent” had all but snuffed out his chances, and the eloquent Mr. Obama would finish him off by verbally slicing and dicing him before a national TV audience.

Maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but here’s the point: Expectations matter. If you’re conditioned to believe Obama’s going to flatten Romney in the debate, then watch as Romney is energetic and aggressive while Obama drones on and spends much of his time looking down at the lectern, you’re likely to believe Romney seriously over-performed. Had the pundits beforehand proclaimed Romney as the heavy favorite, his actual performance might not have lived up to it.

Again, I thought Romney really did get the better of Obama. But as we head into the remaining debates — particularly including Thursday’s vice presidential debate, in which Paul Ryan is widely expected to have his way with the malapropism-prone Joe Biden — this is a reminder to be aware of how the expectations game colors actual performances.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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222 comments Add your comment

Just Saying..

October 8th, 2012
3:19 pm

Welcome back, congrats to your brother and his wife.
Should be lots to talk about in the next four weeks.

Rickster

October 8th, 2012
3:25 pm

Watching it after the headlines were out raised your expectations. Watching it live, with low expectations for Romney, made it appear the blow-out it was.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
3:29 pm

“Maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but here’s the point: Expectations matter. If you’re conditioned to believe Obama’s going to flatten Romney in the debate, then watch as Romney is energetic and aggressive while Obama drones on and spends much of his time looking down at the lectern, you’re likely to believe Romney seriously over-performed. Had the pundits beforehand proclaimed Romney as the heavy favorite, his actual performance might not have lived up to it.”

Gingrich made an interesting observation on Meet the Press this past Sunday, that the strategy of painting Romney black is backfiring in the debates – just as it did with Reagan: people have been given a false negative image of a man who seems quite different than that image when he appears in person in a debate watched by 70 million viewers.

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
3:31 pm

Towncrier: Interesting, indeed. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

Btw, that 70 million thing is huge for Romney. Unless there was zero overlap between the TV audiences for the RNC and DNC — and I doubt anyone believes that was the case — there were MANY more people watching the debate than the conventions.

Gimme Gimme Gimme

October 8th, 2012
3:32 pm

Finn will be thrilled your back. I am sure he has an unhealthy amount of hate stored inside d of him. :)

Gimme Gimme Gimme

October 8th, 2012
3:34 pm

Not debating for 4 years and doing everything he could to avoid the real press lead to Obama being rusty on his feet.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 8th, 2012
3:35 pm

Welcome back, Kyle. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Here’s my take on the debate: Obama’s handlers have all been saying that this was a “new” Mitt Romney; one they had never encountered before.

Wrong on so many levels.

They came in ready to debate the Romney they had created in their minds, not the real Romney. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of hours creating a fictional caricature of someone they wanted to exist – the corporate raiding, tax-cutting, Bush on steroids who kills women by taking away their health care. This caricature was created by taking one-liners and parsing sound bites which they began to believe was the real Mitt Romney.

Unfortunately for them, the real Mitt Romney actually showed up. The moderate, let me take charge and explain my policy in it’s entirety and in my own words Mitt Romney.

They came in ready to debate their creation, but got a dose of a stark reality.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
3:35 pm

More evidence of liberal intolerance for any of their “own” (and that includes ALL black Americans apparently) straying from the fold or refusing to CONFORM to the group mentality:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/twitter-explodes-after-black-actress-endorses-romney-as-the-only-choice-for-your-future/

Fred ™

October 8th, 2012
3:41 pm

Welcome back Kyle. PLEASE take back your sock puppets and idiots.

Since you now have shown that you believe in offshoring weddings to China what is next? :mrgreen:

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
3:47 pm

“Towncrier: Interesting, indeed. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that.”

What is perhaps more interesting is to see how Obama, his campaign and all of his supporters in the media and in Hollywood have made up excuses for his “failure” to do well in the debate. That seems to be a meme of this administration: excuses. Contrast that with what great athletes say when they fail: “I was not playing very well and my opponent played a great game”. They don’t say “the altitude threw me off” or “I was bored” or “I had a lot on my mind” or “my opponent cheated”. And I think neither do great LEADERS say those sort of things. Obama is, at best, a very mediocre leader. Given the dire straits we find ourselves in, I think what most Americans feel is that we really need a great leader. We don’t know if Romney will turn out to be one. But we know Obama is not and got some hope in this last debate that maybe Romney will be.

Linda

October 8th, 2012
3:47 pm

People were shocked, SHOCKED that Obama’s straw man did not appear to have fangs nor horns.

Did you notice that the empty chair was holding an empty suit?

East Lake Ira

October 8th, 2012
3:50 pm

Mitt’s a liar.

Fred ™

October 8th, 2012
3:52 pm

Kyle: It amazes me that you didn’t think that Romney didn’t pull off a good old fashioned behind the woodshed ass whuppin’ on the President. Maybe it WAS because you were “forewarned.” I saw it live and thought that Romney killed him. It was sad lol.

It looked like Romney was channeling Bill Clinton and the President was channeling……… AlfAlfa.

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
3:56 pm

Fred: I thought he closed well, and maybe that left a lasting impression in a lot of people’s minds. I do think, however, that expectations are very important — and it’s safe to say the lead-up to the next debate will be very, very different. The bar for Romney will be higher. He’ll probably have to perform much better to get even the same level of praise.

And Paul Ryan? He’ll have to rip Biden’s beating heart out of his chest, Temple of Doom-style, to meet the expectations being set for him.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
3:57 pm

Krugman is an example, I think, of how any of us can become with politics – namely, oblivious to the “facts”. Here is a well educated and respected economist who is SO devoted to liberalism and Obama that he simply cannot accept the truth:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/08/krugman-calls-obama-debate-stretches-minor-fudges-but-romney-flat-out-untruths/

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
3:58 pm

East Lake @ 3:50: Ironic, given that Obama’s $5 trillion figure has been proven false a) by one of the experts he cited and b) one of his own campaign spokeswomen.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 8th, 2012
3:58 pm

And Obama has a bigger problem in debates 2 & 3 now. His biggest asset is his “likeability” factor (certainly not his record).

He’s got to be very careful in how he handles the urge to attack Romney after this past performance, because if he gets too aggressive after looking weak, he loses the one thing that might ensure his re-election.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:01 pm

“And Paul Ryan? He’ll have to rip Biden’s beating heart out of his chest, Temple of Doom-style, to meet the expectations being set for him.”

Biden is an experienced debater and Ryan is not. But Ryan is younger and brighter. It will be interesting to see what happens if Biden gets his “facts” messed up in the debate and Ryan catches him on that. It might really unnerve Biden.

Michael H. Smith

October 8th, 2012
4:04 pm

Glad you are back Kyle.

The only way to view the debate is in the eye of reality: 1) Mitt clearly won 2) obama’s five trillion dollar mystery tax targeting the middle class that he attributes to Romney is now being discredited by one of obama’s own “CITED” sources who is disavowing obama’s assertions as invalid and untrue.

Next we have Joe “Gaffe” Biden who buried the middle class for the last four years to debate Paul Ryan. The DEMwits will need more than six days to prepare the Gaffe-nator. :lol:

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
4:04 pm

Btw, folks, that 1.1-point average lead for Obama is about to decrease: Pew just reported a new poll that finds Romney up 4 points with likely voters, among whom he trailed by 8 points just three weeks ago.

I kept telling y’all this thing was going to be close until the end…

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 8th, 2012
4:05 pm

“And Paul Ryan? He’ll have to rip Biden’s beating heart out of his chest, Temple of Doom-style, to meet the expectations being set for him.”

A bit graphic, Kyle, but essentially correct.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:05 pm

“East Lake @ 3:50: Ironic, given that Obama’s $5 trillion figure has been proven false a) by one of the experts he cited and b) one of his own campaign spokeswomen.”

And (from http://www.gop.com/news/research/12-obama-debate-lies-and-counting/):

THE CLAIM: Obama Said “Gov. Romney’s Central Economic Plan Calls For A $5 Trillion Tax Cut.” OBAMA: “Gov. Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut – on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts, that’s another trillion dollars – and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit, and make the investments that we need to make, without dumping those costs onto middle-class Americans, I think is one of the central questions of this campaign.” (President Barack Obama, Presidential Debate, Denver, CO, 10/3/12)

THE FACTS: Obama “Is Off Base Here.” “The president said Romney was proposing a $5 trillion tax cut and Romney said he wasn’t. The president is off base here – Romney says his rate cuts and tax eliminations would be offset and the deficit wouldn’t increase.” (Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, D’Angelo Gore and Ben Finley, “Dubios Denver Debate Declarations,” Factcheck.org, 10/4/12)

THE FACTS: “Romney Is Not Proposing A $5 Trillion Reduction In Taxes.” (Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, D’Angelo Gore and Ben Finley, “Dubios Denver Debate Declarations,” Factcheck.org, 10/4/12)

“ The Obama Campaign Has “Extrapolated” Figures To Come Up With $5 Trillion. “By themselves, those cuts would, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, lower federal tax liability by ‘about $480 billion in calendar year 2015′ compared with current tax policy, with Bush cuts left in place. The Obama campaign has extrapolated that figure out over 10 years, coming up with a $5 trillion figure over a decade.” (Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, D’Angelo Gore and Ben Finley, “Dubios Denver Debate Declarations,” Factcheck.org, 10/4/12)

THE FACTS: “Obama’s Claim That Romney Wants To Cut Taxes By $5 Trillion Doesn’t Add Up.” “Obama’s claim that Romney wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion doesn’t add up. Presumably, Obama was talking about the effect of Romney’s tax plan over 10 years, which is common in Washington. But Obama’s math doesn’t take into account Romney’s entire plan.” (Calvin Woodward, “FACT CHECK: Presidential Debate Missteps,” The Associated Press, 10/3/12)

Romney’s “Goal Is A Simpler Tax Code That Raises The Same Amount Of Money As The Current System But Does It In A More Efficient Manner.” “Romney proposes to reduce income tax rates by 20 percent and eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. The Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group, says that would reduce federal tax revenues by $465 billion in 2015, which would add up to about $5 trillion over 10 years. However, Romney says he wants to pay for the tax cuts by reducing or eliminating tax credits, deductions and exemptions. The goal is a simpler tax code that raises the same amount of money as the current system but does it in a more efficient manner.” (Calvin Woodward, “FACT CHECK: Presidential Debate Missteps,” The Associated Press, 10/3/12)

THE FACTS: ABC’s Jon Karl: Obama’s Claim That Romney Has A $5 Trillion Tax Cut Plan Is “Mostly Fiction.” KARL: “Okay, so, the big thing there, and he came back to it several times, is Governor Romney has a $5 trillion tax cut plan. I rate that mostly fiction.” (ABC’s “Your Voice: 2012Presidential Debates,” 10/3/12)

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:09 pm

“I kept telling y’all this thing was going to be close until the end…”

Kyle, do you think the Libyan consulate attack and deaths story will get bigger with the upcoming House investigation?

Del

October 8th, 2012
4:16 pm

I expected Romney to do well and he did. I expected Obama to do much better and he didn’t. Romney’s previously risen to the occasion an example is his so called do or die confrontation with Gingrich in Tampa during the primary. Given the attacks on Romney prior to this first debate, which took a toll, Romney was indeed faced with a do or die circumstance and he rose to meet it.

joe

October 8th, 2012
4:18 pm

Joe “open mouth, insert foot” Biden will be roasted even more than Obama was later this week. Can’t wait for the soundbites on that one because everyone knows he will be “testing” various liberal zinger talking points…and you also know Biden will fire the first shot and Ryan will finish him off nicely.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:20 pm

This is the first I have seen of this:

=http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/08/claim-obama-campaign-illegally-solicited-foreign-donors-via-social-media-website/

Apparently it was forecast here:

=http://washingtonexaminer.com/was-obama-rattled-by-developing-donor-scandal-story/article/2509895#.UHM0plawXkM

Will this story actually gain wings? I guess a day or so will be needed to see. That could be huge if true.

Del

October 8th, 2012
4:21 pm

BTW…Welcome back Kyle. Was that your first trip to China?

MarkV

October 8th, 2012
4:24 pm

There were several expectations on the part of many people, which were not met. One of them was that Obama would effectively counter Romney’s assertions. Obama had plenty of chances, and he wasted most of them.

But another expectation that was not met was that Romney would not dare to lie so brazenly and flip-flop so thoroughly as he did.

Linda

October 8th, 2012
4:25 pm

He was already having a problem with his pants, but the real reason he wanted to quit smoking was because he kept setting fire to the end of his nose.
Famous Pinocchio quote in 1883, “When a politician is lit up at both ends, it’s past time to give it up.”

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:27 pm

“But another expectation that was not met was that Romney would not dare to lie so brazenly and flip-flop so thoroughly as he did.”

You deviated slightly from the DNC talking points (they did not make use of the word “brazenly”). You need to be re-assimilated.

getalife

October 8th, 2012
4:28 pm

Thank goodness you are back because your readers hung out over at Jay’s and it was a mess.

How was the smog Kyle?

Check Gallup again. The polls are swinging back and forth but the only poll that matters is a month
away. More debates, October job report and obl movie should swing them back to our President..

Fred ™

October 8th, 2012
4:29 pm

<i.And Paul Ryan? He’ll have to rip Biden’s beating heart out of his chest, Temple of Doom-style, to meet the expectations being set for him.

I dunno. I think that if Biden shows up sober and can manage 2 coherent sentences that will be a major accomplishment……….

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:30 pm

Is reality breaking in on the liberal group consciousness? Judge for yourself:

http://hotair.com/archives/2012/10/08/wapos-chris-cillizza-wonders-is-candidate-obama-overrated/

Del

October 8th, 2012
4:32 pm

It’s interesting that the Obama campaign has launched this character assault strategy of calling Romney a liar in order to counter Obama’s poor showing in the debates. Since the needle has moved now in Romney’s favor this desperation strategy is almost an insult to the electorate as the Obama campaign is brazenly assuming that the people will simply fall into step like sheep accepting this Romney lied mantra. Of course some will.

JamVet

October 8th, 2012
4:37 pm

Kyle, welcome back.

And I admire your courage to write this article.

Can you imagine how your regulars here would be going absolutely berserk had a Dem/liberal columnist written what you just did?

For some strange reason they treat you with kid gloves!

LOL!

I kept telling y’all this thing was going to be close until the end…

Except where it matters. (He’s down by about 90 votes and no way in hell does he make up the difference…)

getalife

October 8th, 2012
4:38 pm

mitt was for Libya before he was against it.

He wants to reoccupy Iraq because they are friends with Iran.

He thinks Russia is aq.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:39 pm

“It’s interesting that the Obama campaign has launched this character assault strategy of calling Romney a liar in order to counter Obama’s poor showing in the debates. Since the needle has moved now in Romney’s favor this desperation strategy is almost an insult to the electorate as the Obama campaign is brazenly assuming that the people will simply fall into step like sheep accepting this Romney lied mantra. Of course some will.”

It is pathetic and inexplicable, really – given the Internet and abundance of people doing “fact checking” and now “fact checking” of “fact checking”. I guess it shows how LITTLE the Obama campaign thinks of voter intelligence. The plain fact is that BOTH candidates said inaccurate things. So, to hypocritically call your opponent a “liar” while telling “fibs” yourself seems very brazen and insulting to everyone’s intelligence. That strategy seems somehow distinctly tied to Chicago politics. I believe that city is arguably one of the most – if not the most – corrupt one in American history.

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
4:40 pm

JamVet @ 4:37: Romney is not “down by about 90 votes” unless you include all the polls that are well within the margin of error. He still might well lose, but making up “the difference” in statistically insignificant polls, with a month to go, is not exactly a tall order.

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
4:41 pm

getalife @ 4:28: The smog wasn’t nearly as bad as in Cairo.

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
4:42 pm

Del @ 4:21: Yep, first time there.

Linda

October 8th, 2012
4:42 pm

I’ve complimented Obama for being a great orator, an eloquent public speaker.
I take that back. He’s a great reader.

Kyle Wingfield

October 8th, 2012
4:43 pm

Towncrier @ 4:09: At the very least, I expect news about the attack to keep dribbling out. And I expect it to continue being bad for Obama. Bad enough to make a difference? I dunno.

Del

October 8th, 2012
4:44 pm

“That strategy seems somehow distinctly tied to Chicago politics. I believe that city is arguably one of the most – if not the most – corrupt one in American history.”

Yes…the Daley legacy and Obama along with his campaign leaders have grown up in it.

Dusty

October 8th, 2012
4:46 pm

Awww come one, Kyle, You stayed in China too long. You are supposed to come back with a rip roaring account of Romney’s great debate. Instead we get this namby pamby reasoning of sorta good kind of thing. Too much green tea or something? Get going here. This is no time for guru fence sitting. The vigilantes are roaring in defeat. Let’s keep it that way.

I’m glad you are back. But…en garde, mon ami !

JamVet

October 8th, 2012
4:48 pm

Kyle,

As of now the probability of Reaching 270 Electoral College votes

Democrats 98%
Republicans 2%

Better luck in 2016!

getalife

October 8th, 2012
4:52 pm

Kyle,

Cairo?

I did not know they had a smog problem . Driving from Vegas to Southern California’s smog is eery and dark. Roll up the windows.

The debates are easy now because media focuses on style and not substance.

May the best liar win.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:52 pm

“He still might well lose, but making up “the difference” in statistically insignificant polls, with a month to go, is not exactly a tall order.”

Kyle, on Jay’s blog I have been arguing that polls as we know them are becoming increasingly unreliable and expensive (due mainly to rapidly changing phone technology and restrictive laws) and that they are (and perhaps have been for a good while) biased because the people paying for them are mostly liberal media organizations.

One of the observations the Dustin Hawkins makes that had never occurred to me is that pollsters skew that results months before the election when they can get away with it but tell the truth near the end:

If Silver had decided to look at what polls from NYT and CBS were saying before their final poll in 2008, he would see that they had Obama winning by 14 early in October. That number would then drop to 13 in mid-October, and then 11 by the end of the month. The final CBS poll would settle in at 9 points, two points higher than Obama’s final margin of victory. So yes, the “final” poll was within 2 points of getting the vote right. But the one taken less than 4 weeks earlier had estimated his lead by more than double what actually happened. I’m guessing Nate Silver would have a great explanation about the McCain surge no one else experienced….

Cillizza declared Pew Research the “gold-standard in non-partisan polling” and said that the WaPo samples are correct because Pew’s non-voting adult samples back up the argument. How good is Pew? In their final poll in 2008, Pew Research just about nailed the 2008 result when they predicted a 6 point win for Obama. But what’s even more astonishing is that just a week before the election, on October 26th, the Pew poll had Obama up on McCain by an amazing 15 points. So in one week, McCain went from trailing Obama by 15 points to just 6 by election day. That was one heck of a surge for McCain at a time he was getting hammered and it was clearly over. But hey, Pew “nailed it.” Or, perhaps, the last poll got a little extra tweaking so they wouldn’t be embarrassed.

from: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/10/01/Media-Respond-to-Being-Challenged-on-Poll-Datahttp://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/10/01/Media-Respond-to-Being-Challenged-on-Poll-Data

I haven’t yet researches if the same thing has ever happened in reverse for Republicans. But if has not, then that (I think) is strong evidence of cooking the books.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 8th, 2012
4:52 pm

Never trust the analytical skills of a Nader voter.

Towncrier

October 8th, 2012
4:54 pm

“I’ve complimented Obama for being a great orator, an eloquent public speaker.
I take that back. He’s a great reader.”

Good one, Linda. Very funny ;-)

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 8th, 2012
4:57 pm

It is a bit amazing, but there is a very noticeable spike in Obama’s intensity when he’s speaking using the Teleprompter.

He’s just not all that confident in his positions until he’s told what they are.