WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Debates: Conventional wisdom turned on its head

I have to admit: So much of the conventional wisdom has proven wrong during this election cycle.

For example, the conventional wisdom that here in Delaware, we still have a certain civility in our politics. Then you haven't seen independent Senate candidate Alex Pires sneer at Senator Tom Carper as the Dewey Beach businessman again demands Carper release his health records. (This happened again during the U.S. Senate debate last night at the University of Delaware.) Indeed, in his opening statement, Carper attacked Pires: "There are a lot of bomb-throwers in Washington, D.C. We don't need more of them. We need bridge builders."

Similarly, the conventional wisdom this year before the first Presidential debate seemed to be that most voters' attitudes were so hardened, the first debate wouldn't move the needle much. In retrospect, we know how that first Presidential debate altered the Presidential race in fundamental ways.

For Tuesday night's Presidential debate, the conventional wisdom suggested that although President Obama would inevitably step up his game, both candidates would be constrained from punching too hard because of the "Town Hall" format before a live audience. So much for that one.

This was undoubtedly the most physical Presidential debate we've EVER seen. Many pundits - left and right - seem to agree: If President Obama had turned in this performance during that first Presidential debate, Romney would've been on the ropes; his fundraising may have been dealt a fatal blow. But this was the second debate.

I found it interesting how former President George W. Bush came up: While Mr. Romney kept distancing himself from the last Republican President - pledging to crack down on China and balance the budget - Mr. Obama tried to paint Mr. Romney as more extreme than the last President Bush.

The moderator of last night's debate - CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley - came under fire in conservative media for seemingly taking sides in the debate, when she told Mitt Romney that the President DID call the Benghazi consular attack "an act of terror" during his Rose Garden remarks the following day, NOT 14 days after the attack.

I was waiting to hear what the President would say about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton taking responsibility for security lapses contributing to the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The President did declare: "I'm the President, and I'm always responsible."

Then you have that inevitable moment in the debate that overwhelmed social media: Former Governor Romney's use of the phrase, "binders full of women". Mr. Romney came up with that odd metaphor as he responded to a question about inequalities in the workplace and fair pay for women. Mr. Romney responded by recalling his time as Massachusetts governor, and how he sought to recruit women for his cabinet: "I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks?', and they brought us whole binders full of women."

Step aside, Big Bird. It's now "Binders full of women".

By the way, someone almost immediately snatched up "BindersFullofWomen.com". The campaign director for the liberal super PAC, "American Bridge" - Bradley Beychok - pounced on it. David Brock, who catapulted from Right to Left, started "Media Matters for America" and founded "American Bridge".

Initial fact-checking of Tuesday night's Presidential debate from the Pulitzer Prize-winning website, Politifact:


NATIONAL JOURNAL's Rob Fournier captures the cross-currents emerging from Tuesday night's debate...


Political pollsters seeking insight into how a political event plays in "Middle America" often seek out "Walmart moms". One such focus group in Milwaukee found increased confidence in both men...


You can hear my interviews with The NATION's John Nichols and CBS News.com senior political reporter Brian Montopoly about Tuesday evening's Presidential debate, and some of the ramifications...

Audio Here

Posted at 7:37am on October 17, 2012 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 8:01am
I see that now, at least last night, WDEL was getting some "johnny come lately" competition for Wilmington radio coverage of the debates, as the crosstown rival also aired the debate (I don't believe they aired the other two). Frankly, I prefer the CBS radio coverage over Fox or even NPR, so I listened to some of the debate on WDEL, before watching some on TV.

I thought the debate was a tie. Both Obama and Romney were on their game last night. I agree with the conservative media that Candy Crowley of CNN overstepped as the moderator and does support Obama. There was one moment where Romney and Obama were really getting into it, essentially each man was challenging the other's version of the truth, calling the other a liar. I wish Ms. Crowley had let them go on a bit longer as when these men are a bit flustered and angry, THAT's where the real nuggets of truth come out rather than hearing the same ole stump speech stuff over and over. My guess on that is, had it been Obama who had started that in challenging Romney, she might have let it go on longer, but Obama seemed to be losing that exchange, so she put a quick stop to it.

I've linked one of the fact checkers and you'll see both Obama and Romney didn't always get their facts straight.


Wed, Oct 17, 2012 8:43am
Last night's "debate" was a joke...it was two against one.

Romney did OK but not great...I cringed when he used the "binders full of women" wording and know that is going to replace the 47% quote. Mitt should have pointed out the Obama administration pays its female staff less...and this was true in 08' as well (McCain's female staff made the same or more than their male counterparts). Obama says all the right things, but IF YOU LOOK AT HIS RECORD he rarely "practices what he preaches".

...and Crowley flat-out lied about Benghazi/Rose Garden event!

When Obama and Mitt actually went toe-to-toe in the first debate (without any help from the referee) he lost big. When Romney can call out the blatant lies and counter with facts (Obama's record) and figures (the real numbers, not wishful numbers), then he wins. Last night was not a debate, the first one was and my respect for Jim Lehrer skyrocketed after the way he handled his job as moderator (not game fixer).

Wed, Oct 17, 2012 9:26am
Crowley admitted she was wrong on CNN last night....but the damage was already done in front of the entire nation.

...and even had she been right about that (which she wasn't), our president still went in front of the UN and blamed the attack on our First Amendment and a ridiculous b-movie...not al-Qaida terrorists.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 10:31am
Here is another far more exhausting list of untruths told by Obama, Romney, Biden, and Ryan.

It's a shame they couldn't have each candidate hooked up to a lie detector during these debates.


Wed, Oct 17, 2012 10:49am
It's a shame they couldn't have each candidate hooked up to a lie detector during these debates."

That would be an awesome debate...very entertaining;)

Can we hook the moderator to one too?

Wed, Oct 17, 2012 7:52pm
Yep. Obama is good at back-peddling and "taking responsibility" once he's caught lying through his teeth about just about anything, but especially national security. Thank God the FBI and CIA are smarter than he is!

Wed, Oct 17, 2012 7:56pm
I'm curious about Alex Pires with regards to some complaint about him having used his restaurants and employees during normal work hours for the purpose of campaigning. I know Gordon and Freebury were brought up on such charges, but they were using government offices and employees, whereas Pires is using his private businesses which he owns?

Does anybody know if that's illegal the same as using government offices?

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 8:32am
In a short answer, no. It is not illegal for Alex to do so. Election laws allow unlimited personal input into an election cycle. Their intention is to control the influence others may have over a candidate, not stop him from buying influence on his own. The assumption is that voters will make the choice, because they already know what they are getting, as opposed to say, voting in a school board that two months later, all votes to give money to company XYZ.

In this case, since Alex is paying out of HIS pocket, the choice of whether he classifies that single paycheck as a donation to his campaign, or a payment to an employee, will, if taken to court, simply be proved as coming from HIM, and therefore legal.

I'm surprised, that instead of Carper's health, Alex doesn't take him on his bank swipe-fee vote... an area where Carper may lose votes, if... and I repeat if, the electorate ever hears of it...

Alex needs a radio blitz starting now. He already has the state covered in signs...

I'm sad that local debates are completely overshadowed by the national ones this cycle. These past three days were good days to get caught up on local candidates, but for the most part, they preached to empty auditoriums...

Nothing of what they said, has leaked out..... Odd, and sad.

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 8:42am
As for my take on the Federal debates, speaking from a practical statement, if you were previously for one candidate or another, you didn't change your mind. If you were undecided, you decided to wait until after the next debate to make up your mind.

Whereas there may be discussion of it up until next Monday, when seen backwards from the first week of November, what went on in Hofstra, will stay in Hofstra....

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 9:00am
I want to pick up on something that was said on Allan's broadcast Tuesday.

(Perhaps Allan can fill in who did the speaking.)

But the comment or question was phrased something like: Are we in a different world where one is required to land blows on one's opponent, and being nice, considerate, conscientious, agreeable, is deemed a trait of weakness?

I think we are here... on the East Coast for sure (I can't speak for it in the Midwest, Chicago? Yes, but Kansas City? I don't know). I see it in sports too, not just politics. Perhaps the electronic media have depersonalized debates; and our minds, who actually know the candidates now based on their ads pro and con, treat them as cardboard cutouts, or digital images, who in the end, will be scored only as a "win" or a "loss."

I see evidence of this on discussions in these threads. If you are Democrat, when your candidate is attacked, you rise to his defense. When the other side flinches a little, you revel in your brief superiority... I see the exact same thing when the Dallas Cowboys come to Lincoln Field.... If someone objectively says, "Tony Romo is a good quarterback, look at his statistics", that person is verbally torn apart.

Sadly, despite our all our sophistication, we are just Romans in a digital coliseum.

Last point, is to make a distinction. We don't apply the same visceral party feelings to local candidates. We see them as individuals, and listen to what they say, and often do not use this emotional collective defensive mechanism to rush to their aid.

Large states do.

I bring forth the speculation that the culprit for this divisiveness that causes many of us from ancient times to shake our heads in disbelief, is television.

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 1:10pm
Neither Romney nor Obama answered the debate questions very directly, and sometimes not at all.

A question about pay equity degenerated into an Obama rant about funding for Planned Parenthood? Huh?

One gentleman asked why Obama denied extra security to the Libyan embassy before the attacks, and Obama responded by talking about Iraq and Afghanistan

Romney was guilty of the same. He didn't really address the original questions, and gave very few specifics.

Neither Obama nor Romney has stated ---specifically --- what they will do to create jobs.

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 1:19pm
If you have ever debated, one understands why weird things get thrown into the mix by the candidates.

You have an audience; you have one opportunity to sell yourself. You sneak in blurbs that do so, in the middle of your answers...

You probably know you won't be running those points in ads later. So you have a chance, stretch that it is, you take it.

Expect to see more of it on Monday.

After that... it's all about the ads....

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 7:28pm
This is one of the hazards of being a local politician during an election year. The best you can hope for is to ride the coat tails of the national candidate.

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