The first presidential debate on October 3, 2012 belongs to Mitt Romney. It was a clear win in terms of content and delivery. Both candidates began cordially and gracefully. The President acknowledged his wife on the evening of their 20th anniversary. Mitt Romney also congratulated him and quipped about how Obama probably didn't want to spend a romantic evening on stage with him. Both candidates are skilled public speakers. They each looked presidential but Romney owned the room with his rapid fire responses, his knowledge of the facts, and his aggressive approach. He seemed more relaxed and natural and was finally able to humanize his image by talking about people he had met on the campaign trail and correcting any inaccuracies about his policies. What was especially effective was his ability to speak crisply as he quickly enumerated three to four points he wanted to make. He made direct eye contact with Obama and his passion was evident. Gone was his robotic delivery.
What was missing last night was President Obama's trademark confidence. He looked downward as Romney was speaking. His body language was weaker than expected and he would have been better served by standing with his shoulders back and making direct eye contact. He still needs to speak more crisply to be more impactful.
The real loser in this debate was Jim Lehrer, an accomplished journalist and moderator who seemed to be off his game. He acknowledged they had gone over their time and Romney seemed to take advantage of Lehrer's loose time-keeping.
As in any speech, or media presentation, public speaking skills are very important. But visual images can send a strong message. At the end of the debate, Michele stepped on stage to greet her husband. At the same time, Romney's wife and five sons joined him on stage for a victory hug creating an image of strong support.
Romney won the first debate on domestic policy. Will he be able to keep the momentum in the second debate? Will Obama rise to the challenge? What do you think?