The Debates- Who Really Wins

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

There is this smile Obama sometimes does. It is a smile that makes me suspect that somewhere Axelrod is jumping up and down excited. I saw that smile a couple times when Romney was speaking last night. A few of the times, it was because Obama was about to come back to something Romney shouldn’t have just said. Other times the reason wasn’t apparent.

Today I think I may understand that reason a little better.

And I think the reason may be something for the majority of Americans who will not watch the debates. The reason is ads. Things Mitt said mid debate could easily become campaign ads. Campaign ads that may very well be seen by far more swing state voters than those willing to watch an hour and a half long debate. The Obama campaign has already rolled out its first ad based on the debate. It makes Mitt look petulant and juvenile.  It is brilliant.

I think part of why Obama chose the debate strategy he did (calm, measured, and not attacking Romney on things his supporters would have loved to see attacks on) was with a mind to videos like this. The Romney campaign has been working hard to make a scandal out of any comment Obama makes. (see:you didn’t build that) Awareness of that leads to a cautious approach. Even with that caution, Obama made a couple phrasing choices that could come back to haunt him in an ad. He failed to distinguish himself from Mitt on Social Security and did so in a way that could be chopped out unfavorably. He also said “And everybody’s getting a fair share — everybody’s doing a fair share, and everybody’s playing by the same rules.” It seems like the GOP would take and just run the phrase “everybody’s getting a fair share” while screaming socialism at the top of their lungs. Whether the GOP successfully makes hay out of anything Obama said in the debates remains to be seen.

The democratic party is already talking about Mitt interrupting and dissing Big Bird.

Over the coming weeks we will see what ads come out of the debate. That is who really wins. The team that makes successful ads that move polls. The debate itself is unlikely to move any polls. The ads that come out of it? That can be a different story.

Debate gaffes can be unforgettable. People are still joking about Mitt’s $10,000 bet and they will joke about him and Big Bird for the rest of this election cycle. It doesn’t matter who the winner is during the debate. What matters is who gets through the debate without handing fuel to the other side.