Now then, as I was saying, charisma is what wins Presidential elections. The first debate proved this point quite conclusively; as Mitt Romney won it in the opinion of almost everyone simply because he seemed more energetic than the President did. Naturally, I was shocked that Obama did so poorly, but nonetheless the general principle that charisma wins elections was upheld.
Obama returned to form, though, in the second debate and I think won it despite Romney’s best efforts to weird him out by stealing his material. Obama is more likeable than Romney in general; so I really cannot think what happened in the first debate. I still believe that Obama will win because of his charm, and leave the awkward, sometimes nervous looking former Governor wondering what happened.
Of course, in the matter of what they proposed to do things were very different. Mitt Romney threw almost all conservative ideas out, and simply mimicked Obama to a great extent. He talked about how rich people do not need help; the middle class does, and spoke fondly of the need for government regulations. In the second debate, he came out in favor of affirmative action, albeit awkwardly. In the upcoming foreign policy debate, he will probably quote Howard Zinn approvingly.
Romney won the first debate, but in so doing he essentially promised to be super moderate–to out-Obama Obama, as it were. Maybe Romney will just say whatever he thinks is likely to be popular at any given moment. Or maybe there is a conscious and deliberate plan whereby Romney talks like the consummate “centrist” and then governs like a supply-side Republican. But either way, the Etch-A-Sketch strategy worked like a charm.
In a way, I think these debates have been the culmination of what I talked about in this post. There are two Rockefeller Republicans in these debates; one of them simply happens to be a Democrat. There are differences in their personal style, in their manner, and in degrees of Rockefeller Republicanism, but that is what they both are campaigning as.
Obama is (usually) more charismatic, and so he gets the advantage among swing voters. Of the remaining votes, I assume that most will be cast based on party loyalty. The Democrats will vote for Obama and hope he will adhere more closely to their platform, even though he will still face opposition in Congress. The Republicans will vote Romney because they want Obama out, and will vote automatically for the GOP candidate whoever he happens to be.
It bears repeating that Romney is probably not actually a Rockefeller Republican; he just plays one on TV. He played a much more socially conservative kind of Republican in the primaries, and then relied on the public’s short attention span to affect his metamorphosis. Most likely, he is a George W. Bush Republican: almost all of his policies suggest that he supports the same tax cuts and military interventionism that the last Republican did. But saying that won’t win him any allies.
I think that Obama, meanwhile, would like to be more liberal on government spending, raising taxes, and so on. He probably wants to be an FDR Democrat on the economy, but the political terrain is such that he can’t find a way to do that. For one thing, I think he is more interested in achieving bipartisanship than FDR was.
Ultimately, I think Obama wins this on personal appeal. Romney, outside of one fluky debate, seems rather arrogant and condescending. Even in the debate he “won”, he seemed arrogant with the way he talked over the moderator.