Old habits die hard. It’s been a full 10 years since I left Capitol Hill and all the craziness my work there entailed. Nevertheless, come this point in an election cycle, I revert to my old ways: Checking polls like a monkey on crack, wading into pointless arguments with my liberal friends, and throwing parties every time there’s a presidential debate (or, more importantly this year, vice-presidential debate) on television.
Accordingly, this past Wednesday, my political junky friends and I gathered together for a little debate-watching bash in my basement. The plan was to drink copious amounts of wine and throw popcorn at the television whenever Mitt Romney spoke nonsense. Not my usual method of coping, but quite effective when necessary.
As it turned out, however, very little drinking and absolutely no popcorn throwing took place. The debate was, by all accounts, amazingly endurable. Heck, there were parts that were downright enjoyable.
Now that I’ve had a day to process it all (and other pressing deadlines have been met), here’s what I took away from the night.
1. Our guy doesn’t stink.
I know. Not the most glowing endorsement of Mitt Romney. But for someone who avoided the primary debates like the plague and couldn’t bring herself to stay up late enough to watch his convention speech (Paul Ryan’s speech being a different matter entirely), it was a lovely treat to discover that the only candidate I can even consider voting for is actually a lively and personable debater who is unafraid to call Obama’s bluff.
Throughout the debate, Romney came across as smart, strong, and in better command of policy issues than both the president and many previous Republican nominees (cough, cough…John McCain…cough, cough). He spoke much common sense and wasn’t afraid to go after China or Big Bird, both acts of bravery which earned him my earnest admiration. Do I agree with him on everything? No. But do I feel more confident that pre-gaming shots of hard liquor won’t be needed to steel my nerves before voting for the man on November 6? Yes. Even more importantly, do other conservatives feel the same? Seems so. Which means Wednesday was a win for Romney not just on debate points but on the the even more significant task of re-energizing the base.
2. The “I’m too busy being president to care about this silly debate” excuse does stink.
President Obama was seriously not sexy on Wednesday night. Whatever cool he had on the 2008 debate stage was gone. The president had an actual record to defend, as opposed to a rainbow and unicorn themed agenda to put forward, and he was quite simply not up to the job. He muttered and meandered his way through wonky, wonkish answers that left the eyes of even die-hard policy junkies glazing over. And it’s not, as some of my more liberal or non-conformist friends keep insisting, because Romney has the time to be a full-time candidate and Obama has to busy himself with the work of being president.
That excuse had a wee bit of traction in 2004, when President Bush was consumed with the pressing demands of being a war-time president. But these days, the demands that seem to be consuming President Obama the most are his repeated appearances on “The View.” Oh, and all those fundraisers. The truth is, this is the same man who couldn’t manage to get himself to intelligence briefings in the weeks leading up to September 11 and who can’t find the time to meet with his Jobs Council, but still somehow managed to squeeze in an interview with the Pimp with the Limp. I’m sure the presidency puts lots of demands on his time. I’m not denying that he works hard. But when there’s time for chats with deviant DJs, there’s time for debate prep. President Obama’s poor showing wasn’t about scheduling. It was about him.
3. The future of debate analysis belongs to the manufacturers of snarky one-liners.
I don’t tweet. I’m not going to tweet. But, the fact remains, Twitter owned Wednesday night. By the time Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz began having the most entertaining nervous breakdowns in television history, the narrative for the night had already been set by all the chatty Kathy’s with smartphones. Throughout the night, the snappy remarks of Bill Maher, Dennis Miller, Larry Sabato, IowaHawk, Josh Trevino, Moe Lane and more made their way into my family room via Tom Crowe, who was like a talking Twitter Feed all evening. Those same remarks then dominated the network and print coverage afterwards.
I know I should be saying such snappy, off the cuff analysis doesn’t bode well for the future of our republic. But I’ve got to admit, most of those folks managed to say more in 140 characters than the blonde Fox babes did all night. Again, no plans to Twitter myself, but I think from now on, at least come election time, I’ll be grumbling less about those who do.
That’s all I’ve got today. Now it’s on to researching Paul Ryan-themed food for next week’s party. I’ve been told heart shaped cookies would be inappropriate (him being a married man and all), so I’m in need of other ideas. Send ‘em my way if you’ve got ‘em.
Emily Stimpson is a Contributing Editor to “Our Sunday Visitor” and the author of “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years,” where she dishes on the Church’s teachings about women, marriage, sex, work, beauty, suffering, and more.