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A Technocrat Gets it Wrong: Obama Scores a Decisive Victory in the Second Presidential Debate of 2012

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The gotcha moment… when the Benghazi attack came up during the second presidential debate, Gov. Mitt Romney decided to pounce. You could see it in his eyes, the look of a lion about to go for the throat. However, a funny thing happened along the way to the watering hole: reality got in the way.

When presidential debates are decisive, it is rarely about the details; it is usually about the intangible that alters the perception about one candidate or the other. Nixon and his 5 a.m. shadow sweating under the lights; Michael Dukakis looking physically small in contrast to George Bush, Sr.; Bush, Sr. checking his watch; Gore and Kerry looking wooden and stiff; all of these performances changed the perceptions of the candidate and the trajectory of the race.

When the debate moderator, Candy Crowley, fact-checked Gov. Romney, it dealt a significant blow to Romney not just because he was wrong on facts of his Rose Garden address the day after the Libya attack, but because it destroyed the image Romney had been trying to project (with some success) since the first debate: the competent businessman– the technocrat. Romney has been relying on his resume as a businessman to sell his ideas in plans, not specific content.

This approach has a key weakness. When you say ‘trust me’ on the economy and get program details right because of the skill represented by your resume, you cannot lose face. Additionally, when you try to demonstrate your command of the facts, you cannot just flatly get it wrong. A technocrat has to demonstrate he/she can get it right and act decisively. Romney in one simple exchange destroyed the narrative he was trying to establish about himself since the first debate. Perception is everything. Instead, he showed himself to be out of touch with reality and lost somewhere in the fog of the right-wing blogosphere. It most likely lost him the election.

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About Jerald Cumbus

  • CharlesKayeMBA

    Too bad Candy had to correct her statement after the debate and admit Romney was right. That throws a wet towel over your whole article. Maybe this writer ought to read the news instead of the dem playbook.

  • Honest Joe

    Watch the video in the article…

  • Igor

    @1-Charles: we’ll require a citation for your claim.

  • Baronius
  • Baronius

    The President’s Rose Garden comments were designed for wiggle room. He didn’t say it was terrorism and he didn’t say it wasn’t terrorism. That’s not an accident. Now, everything official that was spoken for a week and a half was about the riots/youtube angle, and none of it mentioned terrorism, so they made their decision which way they wanted to take it on Day 2 or 3. But the first comments were written for the purpose of giving him that latitude.

    Should he have that kind of wiggle room? On foreign policy, I’d tend to say yes. If he had some international reason to spin it for a few days, go for it. But you can’t make the case afterwards that you didn’t. That’s what this article is attempting to do, and it looks foolish.

  • Honest Joe

    I still can’t believe the right-wing is still as delusional as it is. Watch the Rose Garden video and there can be NO MISTAKE he was talking about terrorism. Give me a break!