Obama is not a good debater. Any non-loyalist who has watched him closely over the years knows this. He struggled in the pre-primary debates of 2007 to distinguish himself in the multi-candidate field. It was, instead, his fundraising capacity, his ability to give a great scripted speech, and his one-on-one appeal that broke him through in Iowa in late 2007. In head-to-head debates against Hillary Clinton, his responses were regularly unfocused and his demeanor often prickly – i.e. exactly what we saw on Wednesday night. He won the general election debates in 2008 in large part because he was debating John McCain, a poor debater whose candidacy was in grave danger by that point.
Actually, Obama's debate performances are quite similar to his press conferences, which he now avoids for good reason. Watching Obama on Wednesday night reminded me of his press conferences during the health care debate; I half expected him to accuse pediatricians of doing needless tonsillectomies for profit! He has two venues where he excels: a big audience where he can give a scripted speech to the anonymous masses, or a one-on-one interaction where his personal charm can win out. Debates and press conferences occupy a middle ground where he must engage in impromptu, unscripted speechifying; he has always struggled with this.
Friday, October 5, 2012
Obama Didn't Have an Off Night, He Was Never a Good Debater
Those hoping for better performances in the 2nd and 3rd debates may be disappointed. From Jay Cost: