Lyles: The real lesson behind the presidential debates
By Dick Lyles
Reaction to the presidential and vice-presidential debates has been fascinating. Perceptions about their impact are scattered over a broad spectrum as are the polls measuring the immediate outcomes.
The most important debate was the first between Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama. It also appears to have had the most impact in terms of changing perceptions and shifting the apparent momentum of the campaigns. Most people, including democratic pollsters, pundits and Mr. Obama himself, agree that Mr. Romney gained a significant advantage and Mr. Obama suffered a significant setback.
Although many people have speculated on the causes of this effect (from Al Gore’s high altitude theory to Mr. Obama’s preoccupation with more important matters), none have explained the real reason behind what is the largest measured gap in performance in presidential debate history. Yes, Mr. Romney was “on” during the debate and Mr. Obama had an off night, but there was much more to it than that. Let’s look at what really happened.
To put the analysis in proper context, it is first important to understand that prior to this debate public perceptions of Mr. Romney were shaped largely by a hostile national media and more than a $150 million of mostly false and misleading negative campaign ads. Very few people had ever had an opportunity to see and hear Mr. Romney in anything more than short, carefully selected sound bites that were often taken out of context.
Likewise, people’s perceptions of Mr. Obama were shaped by a media that Bernie Goldberg describes as having a “slobbering love affair” with the president. Very few people had ever had an opportunity to hear Mr. Obama without his Teleprompter or in anything other than carefully selected sound bites often chosen to make him look much better than he deserved.
The debates reset reality for many people in regards to the perceptions of both men. Although both had rehearsed and prepared, it was the first time we had an opportunity to directly observe them in enough detail, with enough time, without layers of filtering from the most biased media establishment in American history. We didn’t have to assess the validity of negative and misleading statements in campaign ads or try to somehow uncover the truth in what was being reported by reporters whose goal is to shape the news rather than simply report the facts and let circumstances speak for themselves.
The debates gave voters their first opportunity to make first-hand judgments based on personal observation rather than relying on a fourth estate that has completely abandoned its role.
In the future we should double the number of debates for both presidential and vice presidential candidates. The debates should start immediately after the nominating conventions and should continue throughout the campaign. Each debate should be more narrowly focused. This would allow different areas of each platform to be examined in greater detail. Candidate’s patterns of behavior and command of the issues could thus be assessed directly, in greater detail, over a broader range of issues.
For example, if the vice-presidential candidates had more than one debate, would Joe Biden’s horrible demonstration of disrespectful, adolescent giggling turn out to be a behavior pattern or was he simply following bad advice about how to divert attention from his administration’s poor performance? It would be nice to know.
It is now clear that media bias and negative ads create one perception and direct observation creates another. I propose more debates so we can draw our own conclusions directly.
Lyles, a Poway resident, is a business/management consultant and best-selling author. Reader comments are encouraged.
Short URL: http://www.pomeradonews.com/?p=29500