Maybe Romney Didn’t Win On Style …

I’ve been flat on my back for the last two days (well, a lot longer than that, but let’s not make this about me) and so I have had a lot of time to read commentary on the debate. And it is making me want to say: Geesh.

I saw as much of the debate myself as my (tragic, pitiable) condition and (heroic, self-sacrificing) parental duties would allow.

I thought it was excellent, one of the best I’ve seen, ever. Real substance, a battle of numbers and ideas instead of slogans and zingers, all of it building to a real engagement in differences in fundamental philosophy.

But much of the commentary is treating all of that as secondary. Romney won because he looked presidential. Obama lost because he looked at his podium. On the right, what Romney said was great, especially because he wasn’t what Obama’s ads say he is. On the left, what Romney said was wrong, but he said it like he totally meant it. Good for him.

Serious voices used to complain that political contests have become popularity contests. Now, when Facebook has made everyday life a popularity contest, you seem hopelessly out of touch if you complain about that.

But the ascendance of marketing has been a long time coming, and it has hurt us in any number of ways. One way that is often overlooked: Making everything about its marketing hides true achievement.

Remember what they said about Ronald Reagan? He succeeded because he was an actor. Really? The skills that made Bedtime With Bonzo a non-hit were sufficient to bring the Cold War to a peaceful end and turn around a recession?

They said it about Pope John Paul II too. He succeeded because he was an actor and a showman. Seriously? A stint in Polish avant-garde theater provides one with just the right skills necessary to change the trajectory of the Church in the modern world?

Likewise, Mitt Romney won the debate because his tone had just the right air of authority and spirit while avoiding condescension. Maybe.

Or maybe it was the opposite.

Maybe he won because he didn’t turn every policy into a marketing slogan. Maybe he won because he sidestepped the silly ideological assumptions of “Are you for or against regulation?” and said “I am for good regulation but not bad regulation.” Maybe he won because he refused to see the world in stark ideological terms and looked at its component parts and how they function.

Maybe he won because he listed the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence and explained how each applies to the world today.

Maybe he won because he didn’t rely on style.


(As for me, he had me at “I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country.” And it wasn’t just the way he said it, either.)



  • Paddy

    I’ve read three of your Blog posts and I just have to say: “Geesh.”
    Maybe he won because Obama has had 4 years to “propagate h[is] errors.”
    Maybe he won because the first amendment is under full scale attack by POTUS.
    Maybe you’ll get a clue.

  • Rich

    The whole silliness about “winning the debate” was about the style. Any education of either positions was heard only by the people who wanted to hear something. A number of “facts” on each side are questionable or at least misleading.
    These debates do not have a winner unless you mean when the correct number is hit at the electoral college. Neither candidate advances on the game board just by “Winning” a debate.
    Also, I do not think that the Catholic Church as a position on either debating or as to who won the debate. This is one area where most can agree that the opinion on the debate is not Catholic or non-Catholic. Finally we can all sit in the same pews and praise God without trying to hate each other.

    • Joe M

      The point of winning the debate is that one side makes a stronger case for the office and thus wins more votes. Judging by the shift in polls, I think that point is playing out.

      And there is nothing silly in my view about the stakes for Catholics in this election.

      • Rich

        Thank you for repeating what I was saying, except you may need to recall that the election is still four weeks away.
        There is a lot of silliness about the “stakes for Catholics” in this election, especially if somehow one wants to call winning or losing the debate as something important to Catholics.
        Actually if you felt this was important for Catholics, would you not want to have an open discussion among Catholics instead of just partisan political preferences.
        Citizen responsibility is more than just picking a candidate or trying to destroy the other. Faithful Citizenship is about creating changes in the system that make it more fair and better for those who have been disadvantaged.
        Tax cuts for wealthy will never weigh as high in Gods mind than strengthening services for poor children and pregnant women.

        • Joe M

          Rich. Winning debates enables winning the election, which is important to many Catholics.

          Of course there should be an open discussion among Catholics also. We are engaging in one right here and now! Nevertheless, Tom’s choosing to write a post analyzing the debate results is clearly relevant and of interest to Catholics.

          • Rich

            We both agree that the winning is at the polls and not at the end of any or all or the debates. It is also important for our protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and atheist brothers and sisters. We do not hold the only needs and wants in the country.
            I found his analysis not analyzing anything and being rather uninteresting uninteresting.

  • Don’t Forget Kermit

    The president was taken aback by someone who just outright denied the policy proposals he put out there over months and months of campaigning. Romney and his handlers decided he needed to move to the left and sound more human, more compassionate. This was further accenuated today when he apologized for his 47% statements and admitted he wronged those people. Good for him. I hope the CV commenters who keep making those same kind of statements and worse similarly wise up before their judgement day. PS: Big Bird is going to come back and bite Rmoney big time. Somebody somewhere on this blog posted a comment that Sesame Street was sooo yesterday. Well, those yesterday folks vote. And the *public education* show is still mighty popular these days, even if not so much among Catholic home schoolers.

    • Joe M

      Keep believing this theory. Maybe it will lead to Obama getting blindsided again.

      Romney didn’t change or deny his policy proposals. Some people (apparently Obama and yourself included) simply drank too much of the kool-aid and believed that the mischaracterizations about the proposals were true. So, they were caught flat-footed and surprised when Romney easily clarified what the proposals really are.

      That’s always the risk when you run a smear campaign. You might start believing your own propaganda and end up preparing for an imaginary opponent. But, by all means, keep contributing to that fools errand in the comments here at CV!

      • Don’t Forget Kermit

        When are you going to apologize like Romney?

    • Nursedan2014

      I’m issuing a challenge to you, kermit. Hit the web. Look for videos from this campaign in which Mitt Romney contradicts his debate claims. I don’t mean obama supporters interpreting Romney statements. I don’t mean 20-year-old videos. I don’t mean a sound-bite. I don’t mean a report, analysis, or commentary. Considering the hundreds of hours of video available, you should either be able to do this pretty easily, or you need to shut up.

      • Don’t Forget Kermit

        And here’s a challenge for you Nurse Dan… Read this:
        Also, I pay more attention to written policy statements than to videos, aside from the one for which Romney apologized. And I also believe Romney’s sister.

        • abadilla

          “And I also believe Romney’s sister.” Why, is it because you want to hurt Romney and slander him? Do you honestly believe that his sister meant to “harm” him with her comments? No, she thought she could speak to the media and the media has twisted her words to make Romney look like an idiot.
          I wonder how many stations, T.V. and otherwise, broadcasted the stupidities of Biden blaming the poor performance of the President on the “altitude” of the city where he made a jack-ass out of himself. I guess the President could not speak in Mexico City or in Cuzco, Perú.

          • Don’t Forget Kermit

            Why don’t you believe Romney’s sister?
            How did the pro-life LifeSiteNews twist her statement?:
            What in Romney’s past (or present since he’s flip-floping like a flapjack in recent days) indicates that she wasn’t speaking frankly and honestly? Sorry, but I am doubtful about the stated positions of all politicians. It doesn’t make any sense to me to blindly believe all they’re dishing out to get elected. I couldn’t care less about what Gore said or says.
            And are you willing to echo Romney’s apology for his 47% remarks?
            Oh, and you might want to look at the recent likeablility polls. Obama went up on his character evaluations after the debate.
            Senor Badilla, please forgive me for not answering if you respond to this. You seem like a simpatico guy in a lot of ways — not so much in others. But I’ve had my fill of what’s written here. So toodle-loo.

          • abadilla

            I will definitely check the Lifesite news website because I respect it as an honest source of information even though I was banned from their site for reasons unknown to me.
            I don’t think Romney was wrong on his 47% remark because I believe too many people in this country will vote for the Nanny State provided by the Democrats and Obama.
            Just yesterday Obama said that if a candidate for office could lie, he was not qualified for the presidency, so I keep asking myself, what made Obama believed he was qualified for that office?
            I’m sorry you will not answer me. but I’m responding to you anyway.

          • abadilla

            O.K, this is what I found, “But according to his sister, Mitt Romney will not affect the nation’s abortion laws and certainly will not ban the killing of the unborn if he is elected president.” How can any President affect the nation’s abortion laws when it is the law of the land according to the Supreme Court? How can any President, whether Republican or Democrat ban the killing of the unborn when it is the law of the land when the Supreme Court legalized the murder of the unborn January 22, 1973? Now, can Romney stop Planned Parenthood from distributing artificial means of birth control and promoting abortion all through Third World countries? Certainly, Bush son did just that. However, in order to stop Roe vs Wade, Romney would have to appoint Supreme Court Justices that agree with the right to life movement, and that has taken us through the path of “surprises” at times.

        • abadilla

          “And I also believe Romney’s sister.” Why, is it because you want to hurt Romney and slander him? Do you honestly believe that his sister meant to “harm” him with her comments? No, she thought she could speak to the media and the media has twisted her words to make Romney look like an idiot.
          I wonder how many stations, T.V. and otherwise, broadcasted the stupidities of Biden blaming the poor performance of the President on the “altitude” of the city where he made a jack-ass out of himself. I guess the President could not speak in Mexico City or in Cuzco, Perú.



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