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Government, Politics & Issues

PIN sources see no clear-cut debate winner

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 5, 2012 - The answer to the question of who won Wednesday’s debate varies from person to person, sometimes along party lines, but not always. When the Beacon asked sources in the Public Insight Network who came out ahead in the first face-to-face match between President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the ruling was a clear "eh." Some were decidedly for Obama and others for Romney. For a few, it was simply too close to call.

Most of all, these voters agreed that they had expected to hear more specific plans from each man, and they came away disappointed.

Nick Kasoff, of Ferguson, gave the nod to Romney. "He clearly articulated his view and was aggressive yet presidential. It wasn't even close."

Kasoff, a Republican, said he was surprised by both men. "Romney did much better than I expected, while Obama looked like he had a hangover."

Did the debate do anything to affect his voting intentions? "Not at all," Kasoff, 46, wrote.

He criticized moderator Jim Lehrer, who Kasoff said "failed to control the debate. But the result was probably the most interesting (least boring?) debate I've seen in years."

Janet Cuenca, 74, is a Democrat who lives in west St. Louis County. For her, "Obama won by default. Romney, as usual, contradicted what he had said in earlier months. Obama held true to his programs.

"Romney's 'flip-flops,' and reversals are always surprising because you never know what he's going to change next."

Nothing she heard had any impact on her vote, Cuenca wrote: "I have already voted for Obama on absentee ballot. I will be working at the polls on Election Day."

Reese Forbes of St. Louis gave a "slight edge to Obama."

Forbes, who identifies himself as an independent voter, noticed something that, while less substantive, apparently drew a lot of attention from viewers nationwide.

"One thing that irritated me throughout the whole debate was the flag on Romney's jacket with a big red dot. As a vet, that offended me because it is not my flag. The American flag does not have a red dot. And if it is to symbolize that this is a Republican country, then Romney lied several times in the debate when claiming he would be bipartisan and work with the Democrats."

Romney's flag pin caught more attention than just that of Forbes. As others raised questions, the governor's personal aid, D.G. Jackson, clarified that Romney’s pin was a gift from Secret Service agents, according to reports in several websites, including mstarz.com and styleite.com. The flag features the Secret Service's star — a five-point star with the organization's logo in the middle.

To Forbes, "Romney acted like a bully in interrupting constantly and usually going over his time. So it was not that Obama overwhelmingly won the debate, but that Romney's attitude and positions lost it."

Reese wrote that Obama surprised him, "in that he did not attack Romney with any force and was too polite. He allowed Romney to cut him off, thinking the moderator would, well, moderate."

For Reese, 66, the only surprise was that neither Obama nor Romney said anything in the debate that would affect his voting intentions.

Bruce Mahr, 20, of Neosho, gave the debate to "Barack Obama, because of his poise and demeanor. It was evident that he was not bothered by Romney. Romney came out saying that he didn't have a $5 trillion tax cut. Something I know he does. I didn't like that.

Romney — I expected him to clean up his act and outline what he believes in. He backed down and I don't find that a good representation of his character.

Mahr wrote that he heard "Romney still has the 'say anything to win' mentality, which I was hoping to have my mind changed about."

The debate "didn't do anything to help me believe more in Mr. Romney," the Democrat wrote.

Jason Slavik, 37, of St. Louis is a Democrat who broke with party lines and declared Romney the winner.

"Romney was very aggressive and I was surprised by his nature. Obama surprised me by not staying on point.

"I learned nothing new unfortunately. Frankly, they came across to me as two children arguing about semantics and providing little depth to the underlying issues.

"The debate did not affect my voting intentions. It only inflamed my frustration that the issues are never really talked about. I'm tired of talking points and the use of this set of facts or that set of facts. I wanted to get into some substance about how the changes will be enacted. By what method can we go from A to B. Specifics, not just hot air.”

Rene Kreisel, 53, an independent voter from St. Louis wrote: "Neither candidate won. Romney came across as more sure of himself and more assertive, but also more rehearsed, and he dodged a lot of Obama's questions by just repeating the same thing over and over again. Obama seemed hesitant and somewhat submissive; he didn't hit back when Romney made statements that were misleading or untrue. But neither candidate said anything new or unexpected, or anything that would have convinced me to change my vote."

Any surprises? "I was a bit surprised that Obama let Romney get by with misleading statements. The debate format, though, does not allow participants much opportunity to thoroughly explain their views or defend their records."

Kreisel wrote that she learned nothing new and that the debate would have no affect on her voting intentions.

Joy Ward, 53, of St. Louis and a Democrat wrote: "President Obama has maintained a fact-based debate. The same cannot be said for Gov. Romney. Instead Romney has stuck to his obviously predetermined talking points.

"Also, someone should tell him that smirking during a debate makes him look snarky, not strong. In all, first debate goes to President Obama for staying in the truth and reality zone."

Neither candidate said anything that surprised Ward, and nothing they said will have any impact on her voting intentions.

Jamie Spencer, a Democrat from Des Peres, gave a point-by-point critique that gave no clear winner: Obama was good at this, Romney was good at that, and Lehrer was good, well sort of, at something else.

At the end of the day, no one changed their mind. No one really learned anything new. Maybe next time. The candidates have two more debates. The next one is set for Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The last is set for Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. The vice presidential debate is next week, Oct. 11, at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

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