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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The reviews are in

Apparently I wasn't the only person to sleep through last night''s presidential debate.

The consensus view that Barack Obama lost the match to Mitt Romney will certainly change the media narrative -- at least until the next Romney-Obama face-off. And a changed narrative is almost as important to Romney as votes these days.

Our Man Myth has taken a battering since Republicans high-tailed it out of Tampa a month ago -- much of it self-inflicted. While not reflected in daily tracking polls, the state-by-state numbers moving toward Obama were no doubt causing indigestion down at Romney's Commercial Street HQ.

It is likely that narrative would have changed even if Obama had not delivered what many have called a lackluster performance. That's part of the script of covering a presidential campaign: challenger appears on stage and exceeds downplayed expectations (Chris Christie not withstanding).

Not to mention a media ever fearful of a potential blowout would have shifted its attention onto Obama, his record and his travails. It's right there in the script of how to cover elections.

By apparently stumbling through his effort, Obama will now have the spotlight turned back on him. From observation, I think it is a position he prefers, appearing an underdog who needs to feel challenged to do his best.

It's not an unusual situation for him: coming out of Iowa in 2008, hailed the greatest thing since sliced bread, only to fall to Hillary Clinton after saying she was "likable enough."

And while the air will certainly be filled whoops from the right and frets from the left, it's important to note that individual debate performances can often leave misleading impressions.

Many had written off Ronald Reagan after his first debate with Walter Mondale in 1984 following a performance in which the incumbent appeared old and distracted. It was quickly forgotten after Reagan opened the next debate with the memorable line:
"I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
We all know who won that election.

The 2012 campaign continues to roll out as expected, unless Obama turns in another rocky performance. But that's not likely in the script.

And can you make the next one start earlier so lots more of us can stay awake to watch it?

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