Our political communications professor, Allan Louden of Wake Forest University, is back with his students to break down and grade the final presidential debate.
First, here's Louden:
It has been several hours since the third presidential debate from Boca Raton, Fla. - another late night, as it was for those watching baseball or the NFL, likely larger audiences. Many sports fans and political junkies may still be sleeping, a state of consciousness not markedly different than watching the debate last night.
I observed the debate with 80 Wake Forest University alumni in Washington, a sedate crowd most any time, their response, fitting to the debate, was at best tepid. Following the debate I queried the gathering for an instance of “something new learned from the debate“ roundly greeted by blank stares.
I’m not sure if the baseball or NFL football game were dominated by defense, but the presidential debate sure was, the campaigns in “replay” mode, opting for the safe ground of voter reinforcement not conversion.
There was one exchange in the debate that did rile the assembled. President Obama in an exchange on defense spending lectured Romney: “you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — (laughter) — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
The exchange may puzzle fact checkers as we still do have bayonets (and a few horses) in the army, but it also serves as a container for the debate. Romney branded the president with softness, and Obama lectured his opponent of how the world looked from the presidential pedestal.
Obama was overall presidential, helping his case, but scolding Romney that submarines exist had unflattering, mocking quality.
Voters were not the winner in this debate. The first two presidential debates had moments of insight with occasional new ground uncovered. This debate was more a compilation of greatest hits from TV spots, stump speeches, and practiced town halls.
Third debates seldom have staying power. The exchange from Lynn College in Florida will prove the rule. The news tomorrow, barring an international incident, will be who has the buses loaded on the way to early voting (or who has the bases loaded in the World Series).
Grades: Obama C+, Romney C+
April Walsh: I felt President Obama was stronger than he appeared in the past two debates. Even so, he spent a great deal of the debate on the defensive. Romney reined back his aggressive style. This debate was less theatrical than the past two. Based on the change in tone the viewer would assume that the candidates would talk more about the direct issues at hand. However, both Obama and Romney managed to cater the questions to their own agendas. The foreign policy debate quickly became about domestic issues.
Sam Swank: I agreed with April to the extent that Romney was less hostile this time around whereas Obama increased his aggressive demeanor. Obama gave Romney many opportunities to verbally brawl but Romney maintained his defensive stance. I felt like Romney could do this because he had proven he could be the aggressor and show flare. Tactfully, Romney came out on top.
The power of social media and its influence on the youth of America is eye opening. Throughout the debates, more and more college students were tweeting their thoughts about each candidate. The top trending term on Twitter the morning after is #debate. Students were tweeting about everything from the candidates’ facial expressions, word choice and policy basics.
The consensus seemed to be that viewers were disappointed that this debate wasn’t as entertaining as the past two. Facebook statuses were also extremely popular. My generation has chosen to share its political views in very personal settings. Most of the statuses were humorous but also endorsed a particular candidate. The power of this is that students are looking at what their friends are posting on Facebook or Twitter and being influenced by their opinions. Students who aren’t actively watching the debate or learning about each candidate’s platform are now making their decisions based on what funny hand gesture Romney made or a tweet that emphasizes “#NObama.”
Delon Lowe: I felt like President Obama, having firsthand experience in dealing with foreign exchanges came off more aggressive. Romney, however still managed to come off as Presidential with his dialed back demeanor. The two candidates pretty much stalemated each other with these debates. Both candidates pretty much rallied their bases for a bit and worried their base.
Grades: Obama B, Romney B.