Scores: Obama 75 | Romney 74
Judge: Fenja Berglund
I have reservations about seated debates, which can blur the boundaries of who has the floor as well as making it more difficult for speakers to hold a commanding presence. Both speakers proved me wrong in this debate, with the format (and perhaps lessons learned) working well for Barack Obama’s calm, professorial style. Likewise, there was a smoothing of Mitt Romney’s more excessive aggression and interruptions leaving him with an impressively commanding manner. Overall I found both speakers engaging and appropriately assertive. That is the most positive comment I can make about this debate.
The whole debate was messy and largely unenlightening. Both speakers kept up a fairly constant barrage of attack on each other’s facts and record without many really effective strikes on either side. Good points were allowed to peter out while chasing much weaker points well past their usefulness. Inconsistency was rife and rarely called out by either speaker.
Had this not been such an important debate, at times the superficiality would have been comical. While it’s touching that everyone loves teachers and wants world peace, it would not be unreasonable to expect a higher level of analysis of how to go about achieving these things from presidential candidates than we normally expect from Miss World contestants.
Obama was the slightly less glib of the two, engaging a bit more with the facts, although there was still not nearly enough analysis at more than a surface level. Although he was at times more fluent, Romney’s lack of substantive matter did not rescue him from wandering into trouble with inconsistencies and obvious errors. Obama landed marginally more winning points amongst the chaotic efforts at point scoring. “Here’s one thing I’ve learned as commander-in-chief …” could have been yet another cheap shot but was employed well to make a point. For those reasons I felt Obama emerged from an uninspiring debate with a narrow and not particularly convincing victory.