A couple of weeks ago I posited for group consideration the hypothesis that Obama threw the first debate in order to keep GOP contributor money flowing to the presidential race rather than fleeing to congressional and senatorial races, where the money could conceivably alter the composition of Congress for the next two years, under the idea that he could make up any lost ground in the second two debate. I asked for the thoughts from the readers on this idea, after taking care to point out that simply positing this idea did not mean I necessarily thought it was really happening, I was just asking if people thought it was plausible.
Now that the debates are done, I’ll offer my thoughts on the scenario:
No, it doesn’t strike me as plausible. I think Obama just screwed up badly with the first debate. I think he may have gone in with the plan to be cool and not to appear too aggressive with respect to Romney, but if that was the plan he badly undershot. What the reasons for this screw-up might have been I couldn’t say, because, strangely enough, Barack Obama doesn’t call me nightly to discuss the events of his day. But it’s pretty clear to me that whatever his plan was going into the debate, it didn’t survive the first encounter with the enemy. Romney was pumped up and he, at least, recognized (or thought, anyway) that this was a do-or-die event for him.
So he did, and he didn’t die, and the election cycles went his way very significantly until Joe Biden stepped in to help liberals stop freaking out. Then Obama, who was now awake, at least, did better in the second debate and (by all standards but the most delusional on the right) won the third debate by a significant margin. However, it’s probably safe to say that none of the other debates have had the same impact on the election narrative as the first and at the end of the day Obama was simply foolish to (depending on your opinion of his kung fu mastery) either let the first debate get away from him, or not to have a good defensive plan to counter Romney, who was generally considered to be the better debater and who had excellent reasons to make the first debate the major part of his late election strategy.
Shorter version: Obama got sloppy and got served, and has no one to blame for it but himself.
The irony is that if Obama does end up winning, I suspect that the result of his screwing up mightily will look like the scenario I posited, to wit, donors who were ready to write off Romney took a look at his performance and kept more of their money in his race rather than reassigning it to the house and senate races, which, in the case of the senate, at least, could have made a different between a bare Democratic majority (which seems to me the more likely outcome at this point) and a bare Republican majority (which now seems less likely). Obama did have margin to burn, and intentionally or not, he burned it, and as a result may have burned up GOP control of both houses.
Mind you, the smarter way for Obama to have done that would have been to bury Romney in the first debate and then let his coattails grow to encompass a possible Democratic majority in both chambers. But again, this assumes that Obama has a 3D Chess Rope-A-Dope Kung Fu Debate Strategy to win this election. I think reasonably highly of Obama, but at this point I don’t think he’s doing the Vulcan thing with this election. I think at this point he’s just trying to grind the damn thing out.