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October 17, 2012

Giovanetti: Townhall debate not a game changer, and Obama desperately needed a game-changer

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In Politico's The Arena, IPI president Tom Giovanetti responds with his analysis of Tuesday's presidential townhall debate.

The big question is, did Obama make a comeback after the first debate with Romney?

The president was stronger tonight than in the previous debate, to the surprise of no one, and that will cheer the rabid partisans over at MSNBC, and all 125,000 of their viewers. But those folks were already going to vote for Obama. The question is whether anyone in a swing state either changed their vote or gained intensity for voting, and I don't think that happened tonight.

For instance, calling Romney a liar doesn't gain the vote of undecided female voters in swing states. It cheers Chris Matthews, but that is as irrelevant as Chris Matthews is.

Romney was able to match Obama's strength, however, which is what he needed to do. He was equally aggressive with Obama, which prevented Obama from accomplishing anything that would disrupt Romney's momentum.

Curiously, in the Benghazi question, the table was set for Romney to hit a grand slam, and somehow he didn't. He hit a single, which is still okay, but I'm surprised he didn't hit it out of the ballpark given the obviousness of the question coming up. Benghazi is a giant scandal for the Obama administration. Someone is lying to the American people, and it's someone who matters - it's not some underling. Romney could have done better on that question, and I remain puzzled why he didn't.

Regarding Candy Crowley, I thought some conservatives were being unfair in assuming that she would favor Obama, but sure enough, she did. She gave almost 4 minutes more speaking time to Obama than to Romney, and she corrected Romney on a factual matter. There were at least a dozen incidents where Crowley could have corrected Obama on factual matters, but didn't. She should not have assumed that responsibility. I think it was a bad night for her. Guess she'll end up at MSNBC or NPR.

In order to restore some balance in the third debate, they'd have to let Ann Romney moderate.

Obama's close was particularly weak. At this point no one believes Obama talking free-market. His track record is clear, and the narrative is fixed. He believes in government, not the private sector. He believes in redistribution, not growth and prosperity. So he wasted his close, at least in my opinion.

I would be very surprised if the debate changes the fundamentals of the campaign, or the Romney momentum. It was not a game changer, and Obama desperately needed a game-changer. Good for Obama isn't good enough. Obama can do no better than he did tonight, and it wasn't good enough to change anything.


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