Uninspiring Performance in First Presidential Debate

October 5, 2012

The first of three presidential debates was held this week, and while President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney took to the stage to discuss national issues, the debate left people wondering the fate of Big Bird.

According to Twitter, users were posting comments about Big Bird 17,000 times per minute – making Big Bird the most tweeted subject Wednesday night. If Big Bird managed to outshine Obama and Romney during a presidential debate, then soon we will all be asking how to get to Sesame Street.

The lack of substance during the debate was an unfortunate letdown to Americans who were hoping the candidates would expand on their plans, policies and vision for the future of our nation.

According to polls conducted immediately after the debate, 67 percent of Americans gauged Romney to be the clear winner. Whereas both candidates displayed vague explanations to questions on the economy and taxes, viewers felt Obama’s performance was lackluster and uninspiring.

Off the bat, Romney managed to capture the audience with his quick retorts, smirks and interruptions. However, he did not win the first debate because of his stellar attitude and clear responses; his win was by default because of Obama’s lack of challenging rebuttals. Historically, incumbents have a harder time winning the first debate as challengers gain momentum from being the underdog. While Obama had opportunities to challenge Romney on his statement about 47 percent and depending on the government, he failed to do so.

Recently, the Muslim Public Affairs Council conducted a national poll of American Muslims to determine the top 10 issues they care about this elections season. Topping the list were immigration, the environment, taxes and the federal budget, and national security. With this information in hand, the launch of our 2012 election campaign – “My Faith, My Vote, My Future”-- and the anticipation of the first debate, MPAC hosted a viewing party with more than 70 civic-minded guests in attendance.

At a time when more houses of worship have been attacked than ever before, where was the commentary about hate speech vs. free speech, about religious freedom, about the culture of fear and hate and the security of our nation?

If the two candidates showed lackluster debating skills, then Jim Lehrer, the veteran PBS news anchor and the moderator of the debate, gets the award for most humdrum performance. Ultimately, Lehrer lost control of the debate by allowing Romney’s aggressive style to take over. Obama also cut off Lehrer and extended his comments beyond the time allotted.

While we have two more presidential debates left and 33 more days until the election, the onus is on Obama and Romney to focus on substantive responses rather than political theatrics. These debates are meant as a high intensity interview technique to narrow our nation’s search for the next president. Obama and Romney are running out of time. Nov. 6 is around the corner, and our nation should feel at ease when voting for the candidate they feel best articulates a vision for a prosperous America. Our nation should not walk away from the debates wondering if the candidates said anything relevant.

If you are in the DC/Virginia/Maryland area, we invite you to join us for our next two presidential debate viewing parties on Oct. 16 and 22. RSVP today to save your seat by emailing yasmin@mpac.org. Read viewers’ thoughts about the debates by following #MyFaithMyVote on Twitter.

Help us continue our work with a quick
one-time or monthly donation.