The Last Debate – Creating An Experience

We’ve always said that “Behavior Reigns” in these debates. This last critical Presidential Debate of this important election is no different. Obama won – but why? And did Romney really lose? What will be the communication experience left in the voters mind – when they are in the voting booth?

President Obama won in the ‘eyes’ of the viewer for two main reasons:

  • Command: The President actually seemed to be channeling Governor Romney from the first debate. He was strong of voice, interruptive, turned most questions to attacks, and seemed to take command. Obama also had more detail and examples than Romney. (Of course one might expect that as the President has been briefed in detail on foreign policy for almost 4 years.)
  • Eye Communication: In this split screen we see the candidates up close and magnified. Obama looked at Romney as he talked with a directness and seriousness that was effective. Much the opposite of Biden in the Vice Presidential debate (smirk, laughing, etc.) And his eye communication was well placed to often glance at Moderator Schieffer while Romney is finishing, almost to say “I’m ready – call on me.”

Governor Romney lost in experiential terms because he lost his spark. It’s not that he was as low energy as Obama was in the first debate, but he was:

  • Deferential: He probably agreed with Obama a couple of dozen times, most of them stated verbally. Not what you really want in a challenger in a high stakes debate like this. Perhaps he didn’t want to confront, but it not only takes energy away, it sets a mind set for missed opportunities. Romney did not confront on the Libya mess and security lapse for openers, and perhaps a half dozen other issues.
  • Eye Communication: For some reason Romney rarely looked at Obama, but kept his gaze on Schieffer most of the time. Now that’s OK, but the few times he lofted an attack on Obama he should have looked directly at Obama – making it more personal and more powerful. By comparison with Obama he lacked power and directness – purely from eye communication.

The Communication Experience

Above it all is what people take away, and you know where that makes a difference – in the voting booth. The communication experience from this debate now makes a level playing field.

President Obama was aggressive and in command in this debate, offsetting his “sleepy” performance in the first debate. Perhaps not “Presidential” but definitely offsetting the earlier experience.

Perhaps Romney was trying to act Presidential – pass the Commander In Chief test. He actually did, though perhaps it was ill advised to be comparitively passive in the effort and above the fray at this critical point in the campaign. Does he really want to leave the communication experience of this debate in voter’s minds two weeks before the election? Well, maybe. Maybe it will be seen as Presidential when added to the experience of his first debate.

What do you think?

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