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Thursday, October 04, 2012

My Two Cents in the Debate on the Debate

I don't think debating says much about presidenting and can't pretend to care more than I do about the fact that the president I support didn't win last night's debate against the candidate I oppose, but it would be silly to pretend I wouldn't have preferred victory over defeat in the debate or to pretend victory happened when it didn't. Given the stink of conspicuous defeat that has been growing on Romney since his disastrous VP pick and lamentable convention failed to move the deadly defining plutocratic-alien narrative the Obama administration wrote for him over the summer, it was clear that last night's debate was Romney's last obvious chance to save his skin, and that he had to win the night to manage it. He did, and largely because Obama failed to fact-check rather a lot of facile healthcare lies that could and should have been real Romney vulnerabilities.

Still, I think the debate was frankly too dull to have much impact on the overall race, and I doubt that the poll numbers next week will look ominously different from this week's numbers. But in failing to lose Romney prevented the bottom from dropping out of his campaign altogether. Romneyshambles is for the moment in abeyance. Let Romney be Romney and Romneyshambles will re-emerge soon enough. The chief implication of his not losing, as far as I can see, is that nervous GOP superPACs are a little less likely to write Romney off and divert their cash to downticket races where their money would frankly do more damage to progressive priorities. I don't think Romney's comparative success last night made him more likeable or relatable to voters by any stretch of the imagination (you could make the case that the debate was actually a draw on that basis), and I don't think Obama's rather lackluster low-key performance made him less likeable or made anybody forget he is the President or think there is any reason to fire him. I honestly don't think Obama would lose this election even if all three of his debates went down like last night did, but I think the Town Hall format coming up will be more congenial to Obama in any case and will probably set the stage for a rather triumphalist media narrative in the homestretch.

I'm personally hoping Romneyshambles remains impalpable long enough for the GOP to waste their substance on their loser rather than shoring up House races, so that when the blowout comes it has the coattails to give Obama the Congress he needs to implement the mandate he will in fact have been given for serious public-sector jobs growth, more renewable infrastructure investment, more progressive taxes, immigration reform, continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and shepherding the beginning of state by state expansions in the direction of single payer in Vermont and California and elsewhere, card check, a Supreme Court resisting the Republican War on Women, the beginning of the end of the racist War on Drugs, the return to sensible gun laws as a Democratic priority, and a more diplomatic than not circumvention of war with Iran (and ideally a sufficiently forceful and progressive Congress to pressure Obama to reverse course on the Unitary Executive and drone fetish ugliness).

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