The airwaves were flooded for at least 48 hours this week with declarations telling us who won the first of the three big presidential debates. It was a confident, bullish Romney, they declared!
Their declarations reminded me of the seemingly countless times now, since 1960, that they have told us, just minutes after the debates ended, who won and who lost.
The media crowned Democratic challenger John Kerry the winner three times in 1994, after each of his debates with President George W. Bush only to find, on Election Day, that Kerry was the one who didn’t get 270 Electoral College votes – making him the real loser of all three of his debates.
My high school, Xaverian High in Brooklyn, N.Y., had a great debate team. There the winners were indeed picked right after the debates – sometimes by judges using point systems and sometimes by vote of us boys who made up the audience.
But Wednesday’s presidential debate had no winner because there were no judges armed with point systems as Romney and Obama squared off. The audience, the people of the United States, doesn’t vote until Nov. 6. So all the talk by the punditry regarding who won and who lost is either guesswork is just plain b.s.
History teaches us that people make their voting decisions based on how they perceive the choice of a candidate will meet their needs, not on the prognostications or interpretations of the punditry. Often the people make their decisions based on something quite outside of what the media has determined is important.
This Thursday, the day after the debate, I was in “Bainport,” a protest encampment set up by Mitt Romney’s victims, workers outsourced by Bain Capital, in Freeport, Ill. The workers, many of them long-time Republicans in a Midwest Republican stronghold, have turned their town into an epicenter of the fight against Romney-nomics.
When asked about the debate, they and their neighbors focused like laser beams on what they called Romney’s “lies.” A town of tens of thousands in the heart of GOP country is abuzz with anger about Romney and has thrust itself to the front lines of the struggle against what Romney stands for.
None of the pundits, who began flapping their jaws as soon as the debate ended, got around to visiting Freeport the day after the debate. We looked. We didn’t see one of them.
My brother lives in Brooklyn where he grew up to become a court officer. After the debate he said he didn’t agree for a minute that Romney had won anything. He told me how for years he has listened to high-priced lawyers wow the courtroom with clever lines and a big show. Later, he said, came the jury’s decision, very often arrived upon after they viewed or heard evidence not even mentioned in the slick summation.
Before the debate the Ipsos/Reuters poll had Obama with 47 points and Romney with 41. After the debate, it had Obama with 48 and Romney with 43. Nothing statistically significant there!
So don’t get swayed by the opinions of a punditry that covers debates not as how they relate to the Bainport encampment, but as if they were nothing more than sports contests. Don’t be swayed by the reportage in a paper like the Denver Post, which saw the debate as a bullfight!
The Denver Post noted how,”over and over” again Romney was the “bull,” charging at Obama. It noted how, “over and over” again Obama, like a matador, got out of the way and didn’t charge back.
Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s “Last Word” mentioned that article in his show Thursday night and probably said it best: “In the end, we know what happens to the bull.”
Photo: Reporters converge upon David Axelrod, a top political adviser for President Obama, at the Oct. 3 debate. University of Denver