Thursday, October 4, 2012

Obama vs. Romney - the grades

We're happy to welcome back political communications professor Allan Louden of Wake Forest University, along with his students, to break down last night's debate. 

Louden, a national champion debate coach who has worked with politicians such as Elizabeth Dole, graded speeches and debate performances for us in 2008. On Wednesday, he and his students took a slightly different approach to the first 2012 presidential debate.

Their analysis, from Louden, along with a grade:

Read more here:

Watching a debate in a room of 150 students, each responding in real time with instant polling, is an illuminating experience. Viewing in the collective often tells you when the “Ah Ha” moment happens, that clip which scripts the next day’s news. That moment never happened. 

Why? It could be because, unlike the “debates” we have become accustomed to, the audience
witnessed an actual debate. There was clash, evidence, and reasons. Amazing, a debate that focused, had genuine exchange, and its preponderance was substance. 

It appears that when presented with argument audiences actually reach conclusions that reflect what happened, not their preconception or partiality. 

Following national trends reported in post-debate coverage, the students entered the debate narrowly approving Obama, but were comfortable in judging that Romney won the debate. Students, clickers in hand, recorded:

Who do you favor going into the debate: Obama 57%, Romney 43%
Who did a better job in the debate: Obama 44%, Romney 56%

Students rallied when answers suited their interests (Who do you trust more to do the right thing for public education? 70% Obama–30%. Romney) yet also rated Romney higher on other questions. The evaluation, a mixed bag, seemingly reflected what transpired on the stage. 

More than half viewed Romney more favorably after the debate, but a vast majority said they were unlikely to change their votes in the election. They found Romney more aggressive but also his tone was appropriate. 

Who won? 

The big winner was the students' (and by inference voters') rationality, demonstrating they understood reasons, and resolved arguments based on the exchange. The other winner was the format, which solicited on point comparisons, rewarded specificity, exposing over-claims that populate press and advertising.

Concerning which candidate won or lost, however, the majority of students favored Romney’s debating. They believe that the GOP candidate succeeded in controlling the terms and framing of the economy debate. Students were oft to applaud Romney’s ability to answer on-point Obama’s objections to his platform, specifically his ability to root out individual arguments while navigating the narrow time limits of the debate format.

“716 billion dollars cut from Medicare…50% of doctors won’t take any more Medicare patients…Obamacare will cost middle class families $2,500 more a year,” Junior Communications major Ryan Heuler recounted from the debate. “Romney had a list of attacks on the president about his policies while providing statistical evidence as well as projections about every topic. He made it very clear that the point he wanted to get across to the people was that Obama’s policies have clearly failed us and there is no evidence that proves him otherwise.”

Even the most ardent Obama supporters were caught off guard by Romney’s success at navigating the format. Taylor Harvey, Senior Political Science major, described Obama’s performance as ‘lackluster.’ He observed, “Throughout the debate, Obama often declined to address Romney’s attacks, instead choosing to go into great detail on the policy proposals he has promoted over his first four years. This approach came across as laborious and professorial, two traits many political commentators emphasized the president needed to avoid to have a successful debate.”

Within their assessment of Romney’s ability to control the flow of the debate, many students commented on the wide disparity in speaking styles between the two candidates, with most favoring Romney’s more aggressive approach. For many, Romney’s hard-nosed approach had Obama reeling early, putting him on the defensive for a large portion of the debate.

“From start to finish Governor Romney was the clear aggressor, and I think that was of great benefit to him. If Romney can continue to have this success, independent and undecided voters will without a doubt lean to Romney,” Ryan Bauder, Sophomore History major observed. “Romney also managed to thwart critics on whether he would be able to connect with viewers and if he would be viewed as presidential. After this evening’s debate there is no question he answered these with a resounding yes.”

Within that vein, many students walked out of the debate wishing for something more from Obama. “It was surprising that Obama had very little star quality since his performances are consistently exceptional,” April Walsh, Junior English major, commented. “After a powerful speech about moving the nation forward at the DNC, it seemed as though all Obama did during the debate was take a step backward. Even though he was polished and well mannered, it was very transparent that the president was easily irritable.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether this strategy is sustainable throughout the course of the debates. While the students favored Romney’s debating overall, they recognized some holes in various policy explanations and hope to get a better sense of Romney’s overall platform before making any final judgment about the two candidates.

Romney – A-
Obama – B+


Wiley Coyote said...

Observer's coverage:


Unknown said...

The 44% in the post-debate poll mentioned above that thought Obama did a better job in the first Presidential debate are 44% that would NEVER vote for ANYONE against Obama!
Romney was spot on with his comment that 47% of the people would never vote for him... although according to the poll some of the 47% are changing their mind after the 1st Presidential debate.
My grade would be: A Romney, B- Obama

Skippy said...

Good god, you as may as well ask the welfare class in Cleveland Ohio who won the debate last night. These kids are nothing but the product of years of liberal indoctrination.

How about a little taste a reality for you kiddies:

Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor:

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.

CommonCents said...

So if the vast majority of students did decide to change their vote, would they still be considered big winners? CO doesn't even try to hide their bias anymore. Did Fannie get out of bed yet?

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how anyone with an intelligent brain would still consider voting for BO after last night? MR is an extremely intelligent businessman and former governor who has been very successful. He is the type of person who would make certain to leave a successful legacy for all and go down in history as a President that made a difference in our country. Of course I reiterate, anyone with an intelligent brain...?

Jason said...

Since Obama was trounced in this debate where rational points and facts and figures were used, it stands to reason that he'll do everything possible to prevent rational issues and facts from being discussed in the next debates.

Seamus S said...

I guess since a "B" is just about the lowest grade given to students anymore a "B+" isnt saying much. Maybe they are counting on Biden setting the low part of the curve next week?

BiBr said...

So..what a bunch of college kids thought is newsworthy(or is this desperation on the CO's part?) As one post said, college kids are the product of years of liberal indoctrination. They'll likely outgrow that once they start thinking for themselves.

Anonymous said...

And the left-wing big 3 networks, 50 largest newspapers, NPR and all those super-bloggers like Huffington and the like, have already found an excuse for the BO performance - it was his wedding anniversary. Now I know guys stereotypically forget occasions like this, but the date of this debate was announced weeks ago. All BO had to do was say this date was his anniversary and he was busy, and the date would have been changed, since the venues, moderators and questions are all specifically designed to favor the Democrat.

I don't agree with St. Onge that it was a rout, but Romney was definitely more on his game. I cannot wait for the VP debate. Oh the anticipation of how far down his throat Bidenopolis will shove his loafers.

Unknown said...

If you'd like to send an email to the Commission of Presidential Debates and let them know how you liked seeing the candidates actually 'debate' send it to:
Visit their website for the transcript of ALL Presidential & VP debates

Personally I enjoyed and learned more because the moderator ALLOWED the candidates to 'debate' each other and not spoon feed boring questions.

Good job Jim Lehrer!

Larry Comrades said...

To see how they think it went in Asia

par said...

The Observer can not objectly grade a debate.

Romney A-
Obama D+

Jim in SC said...

The debate revealed the real OBama. The emperor has no clothes. In the business world he would be an "empty suit". A specialist in job placement would encourage him to be a permanent guest on "The View".

Jim in SC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Is this item to remain permanently at the head of the "Opinion" page?