There is no point in rehashing much of what has been sad about last night. By this point in your day your have either heard it all or read it all. But I do want to point out a few important reasons why I believe that Mitt Romney not only won the debate, but how he was able to do so in such a convincing fashion. These are a few general observations without getting into the nitty-gritty specifics. There are some other writers here at CatholicVote who can do much better at that than I can.
So here are my reasons why I believe Romney was able to win so decisively:
• First Observation: Romney addressed arguments with facts, not talking points.
Going into the debate, if you were to ask me my biggest fear, I would have told you that Romney would get stuck on “talking points.” Republicans over the last few cycles have become stuck in the rut of talking as if they were on talk-radio; addressing issues by using rhetoric and platitudes. Last night that wasn’t the case.
Early in the debate Romney was able to hammer home his views on tax reform in a “1-2-3…” style. At the same time he refuted attacks from President Obama, forcing the President to try his attacks in another manner. It was not only the presentation, but the substance of Romney’s answers that gave him a strong advantage. Substance wins debate almost always. Because Romney had both substance and style – the substance shined and transmitted easily to us viewers.
• Second Observation: Romney appeared the stronger candidate.
This has nothing to do with substance and everything to do with our subconscious. Should we pick our President on looks or appearance? Of course not. Yet, last night, the way Romney spoke, looked, and expressed himself was stronger and better than the way Obama did. Some say that Obama was distracted with something, and others were simply bewildered by his performance. Regardless of why, Romney appeared stronger and came off more Presidential.
• Third Observation: Romeny focused on his ideas more than he focused on his opponent.
Usually debates descend into a jousting match after the first 20-25 minutes. Candidates end up attacking one another and then defending against those attacks. This one didn’t follow that path so much. Romney seemed to take a different approach to this debate and focused more on his ideas, rather than his opponent. Obama tried to follow suit, but clearly his debate-prep didn’t prepare him for such a strategy. All night he seemed on his heels, and at times disinterested.
Prior to the debate, I would have said that Romney needed to attack Obama’s failed record repeatedly to do will. But instead, Romney laid out his vision and then explained why it was different than what Obama has done. Only when necessary did he directly attack Obama’s record. It worked because when the President attacked, Romney pivoted back to his own ideas. More simply put – Romney stayed on offense the entire night. This made him come off as the stronger candidate, and allowed him to lay out his vision better.
Overall I think that Round 1 goes to Romney, but the President is a skilled speaker and Round 2 will not be so easy for Romney. Yet, before we get to the next Presidential round, the Vice Presidential candidates are up. There I think you will see exactly how different these two campaigns are in terms of policy, philosophy, and vision.