Decision 2012 is one in which voters must decide who they DON'T want to run the country. Some can't stand more socialism with Obama, and others can't fathom a Romney presidency. I predict these debates will show that even 2012 Obama still has more charisma and rhetorical wherewithal to make Romney look like a Mormon muppet. Don't get me wrong. I am no Obamamaniac. In fact, I don't plan to vote for either of these candidates. I'm just looking forward to an entertaining night on Wednesday.
And entertaining this debate will be. Yes, substantive policies will be referenced in passing. What would a candidate be without his particular plan to restore America? But this is not an election about facts but songs. Whoever sings the sweeter tune will likely secure the electoral votes to rule the land.
Presidential debates usually get distilled to just a couple sound bytes. The night will mostly be about not screwing up, and as the challenger it's Romney's game to lose. I doubt we'll get another $10,000 bet or similarly 1% gaffe out of him, but the pressure of that hot seat — technically more of a hot podium — will certainly be intense.
This is the first of three televised debates and the first of two presidential debates. Be sure to keep a count of how many times Romney says "jobs," but don't bother keeping track of the inevitable litany of everyday Joe anecdotes both candidates tell. I'm not certain those people actually exist anyway.
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UPDATE: 9:31 I will attempt to distill each candidate's closing statements to a haiku per @haikustory.
Obama: listen, it's been tough / education, energy / fair share... guys, it's me!
Romney: we're very different / Obamacare? it's awful / defense? needs all funds
9:25 This is a clear departure, and I promise I'm done linking to Twitter, but this is great. No one ever argues the moderator won the debate.
9:23 Just a little more framing before we get to closing statements. Twitter's great sometimes.
9:20 Always good to get some perspective. Thanks, Twitter!
9:19 In fairness, Obama, if we're going to attack each other's running mates I'm pretty sure Ryan would win in a fist fight... and the debate next week.
9:16 Were I a presidential candidate, I would seriously have to fight the urge to just be a contrarion: "As president, I would immediately declare war on all religions. I think we can all get behind that."
9:12 What's the mission of the Federal Government? My parents maintain that Obama has played more rounds of golf during his presidency than anyone ever. I plan to check this...
9:10 My parents, while playing with our Great Doodle puppy: "Middle class, middle class..." I'm still not sure how upper-middle class my family is. I think the secrecy shrouding that fact pushes it a bit higher. Also, Nestle may be a puppy, but he is alarmingly huge.
9:06 My mom is fact checking the debate on her Kindle Fire on abcnews.com. (Again, I'm not being paid for this plug, but I'd like to be.) She reads off the corrections a bit idly with little regard for the current heat of the debate. But just when I think she's tuned out I hear an 'amen.'
9:03 Mom: "This makes me want to eat." Dad: "This makes me want to drink, heavily. But there's nothing good to drink here." Evidently he doesn't like my Guinness or Captain and (Diet) Coke.
9:02 Mom: "I'm so tired of that phrase— 'reach across the aisle.'"
9:00 The Christian anarchist catching up on Tivo: "Mitt keeps saying North America. I think he's already annexed Canada and Mexico and is looking south for future growth."
8:58 Dad: "Someone needs to address that health care isn't a right" and re: Obamacare won't take over your insurance plan: "BULL-PUCKY!" Incidentally, both Mitt and Barack have been fond of counting their points in the past few minutes. I suppose it's comforting to know all our problems can be solved with bullet points. Obama gets the first laugh of the night. LOL!
8:54 After a break to grab a Guinness Black Lager — no, they're not paying me, but I would welcome their compensation — I hear my dad say that Obama has "the WRONG kind of legislation on Wall Street." I wish 'Dodd-Frank' were part of the drinking game.
8:50 Romney answers reasonably: regulation is necessary, but now it is excessive in some places and not in others.
8:45 Really, Obama? Your grandmother?
8:43 Romney again invokes numbers as if anyone actually wants numbers.
8:41 My male feminist librarian friend: "I'm not watching, but I think Romney looks like a human shark." The Christian anarchist: "I like Big Bird, but I'm not sure what's going on with Bert and Ernie.... and 47 percent of those folks on Downtown Abbey aren't going to vote for me."
8:38 Romney rightly points at the Obama and government generally isn't the best at selecting up and coming businesses.
8:35 Obama says big corporations don't need more money. Dad: "HERE we go." Mom: "You've got a corporate jet, buddy!" Obama again advocates for balance and relates a state-level anecdote while my parents blurt slightly related accusations. My Christian anarchist friend seems to have the right priorities: "Making lunches and helping with homework, will be catching up on Tivo soon."
8:32 Romney uses the adjective 'slow' instead of the adverb 'slowly' — a forgivable mistake. I'm not sure ANY Midwesterners care about that difference.
8:30 Dad: "Why do we even have the Department of Education?," a view he shares with Ron Paul but won't admit that he does. Barack "Johnny Pregnant Pause" Obama says his opponent preaches an unbalanced approach. Romney smirks.
8:27 Romney thinks the only ways to cut the deficit are to raise taxes, cut spending or grow the economy. I'm always skeptical of how the executive branch plans to grow the economy, personally hire all the unemployed? Romney says he'll cut PBS funding and personally muder Big Bird, because that marginal discretionary spending is REALLY weighing down the federal pocketbook.
8:25 Romney confutes correlation with causation, blaming everything bad of the last four years on Obama. Dad: "Lehrer has an unpronouncable last name. What's with all these 'differences' questions?"
8:23 Obama: "Yeah, let's move on, but we've tried this..." Dad: "Your approach didn't work at all!" Mom: "How many jobs did you lose?!"
8:22 Romney may have said 'jobs' more than he used prepositions.
8:18 Dad, eating Moose Tracks ice cream: "Uhhh... yeah right, Barack. You didn't do that.... Are you nuts? Uh." On a personal note, I think it's hilarious that the time I used to write impromptu speeches in high school, two minutes, is the only allotted time for two Harvard-educated men vying for the highest office of the land to explain their views on an issue.
8:16 Romney gets artificially incensed and promises to somehow lower taxes on everyone and still cut spending. Lehrer loses his first explicit battle to control this debate. Mitt invokes statistics again — Obama hasn't yet — and appeals to the amorphous authority of 'studies' as Obama just did.
8:13 Romney invokes actual numbers, an inspiring debate first. Again outlining a few vague policies. "Mr. President" always reminds me of Marilyn Monroe's happy birthday song to JFK. Romney wants North America energy independent? In fairness, I think Canada should be incorporated into the electoral college at this point.
8:08 Dad: "Fixing education? Spending more money!" Romney looks rather smug in the splitscreen. Obama seems slightly bored. I find that a bit endearing. Lehrer pushes for specificity which will be largely absent from this debate.
8:05 Romney affirms Obama's marriage and lights right into a folksy jobs anecdote. He outlines five incontestable points with no specifics that if actualized... would be great.
8:03 Jobs first? Okay, Jim Lehrer. Obama references his spouse, proving he is a monagamous human male just like you! and then summarizes the past few years of American history.
8:01 CST ABC claims this will be the biggest night of the campaign. I don't have cable, so I have no way to contextualize this claim. I nonetheless think it sensationalist and sad if true. Jim Lehrer is looking good, though.
7:57 CST Turns out the Arizonan feminist will be playing the Policy Mic drinking game with her roommate. The game is on.
7:46 CST I think it's prudent to explain some of the people I may reference. The only people in room with me will by my dad, who listens to Rush Limbaugh daily, and my mom, who doesn't quite. My friends tweeting at me are variously recent citizens, feminists and Christian anarchists. Get excited, everybody.