For those who watched last night's pre-presidential theater, our condolences. You were not alone, however. Art Cashin was there too and here is his post-mortem.
From UBS Financial Services
The Debate – Here's how Politico's Ben White described the debate this morning:
DEBATE WRAP: BARE-KNUCKLE BRAWL — It was an intense debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Long Island last night, with the candidates often circling, interrupting and generally trying to outalpha male each other. Obama turned in a much stronger performance than the first debate and ripped into Romney's tax proposals — especially the notion of cutting marginal rates 20 percent without adding to the deficit — as well as his primary season stances on contraception coverage and immigration and his opposition to the auto bailout. Obama also used his final answer to invoke Romney's 47 percent comments dismissing nearly half the country as free loaders. In short, Obama hit all the points his supporters could not believe he mostly skipped in the first debate.
But Obama was far less effective in making an affirmative case for a second term, saying only that he wanted to create more manufacturing jobs and reduce the debt and deficit and keep investing in alternative energy sources. Romney had his strongest moments ripping up Obama's first term record, citing the persistently high jobless rate, the rising debt and the lack of action on Social Security, Medicare and immigration reform. Obama mainly tried to refresh his campaign's initial — and largely successful — disqualification effort against Romney rather than making a strong pitch for a second term vision.
What struck me was the large number of viewers, including reporters, who expressed discomfort at watching the debate. The contentious, uncivil nature of it, prompted phrases like "I had to look away" or "I almost switched it off". Certainly not a high moment in the history of the Republic.
Overanalyzing a bit, the alpha-male aspect may have hurt Romney a bit. My thinking was that the first debate made him look competent and human. He could have built on that with a chance to build empathy with the audience, especially women.
While the President was given the nod by a plurality of viewers, I think Ben White hit the mark. The President continues to run on a "why you can't choose Romney platform" rather than a "Why you must choose me". Next week's polls could move markets.