A Technocrat Gets it Wrong: Obama Scores a Decisive Victory in the Second Presidential Debate of 2012

Posted on October 17, 2012

By: Jerald Cumbus

The gotcha moment… when the Benghazi attack came up during the second presidential debate, Gov. Mitt Romney decided to pounce. You could see it in his eyes, the look of a lion about to go for the throat.  However, a funny thing happened along the way to the watering hole: reality got in the way.

When Presidential debates are decisive, it is rarely about the details, it is usually about the intangible that alters the perception about one candidate or the other.  Nixon and his 5AM shadow sweating under the lights, Michael Dukakis looking physically small in contrast to George Bush, Sr., Bush, St. checking his watch, Gore and Kerry looking wooden and stiff, all of these performances changed the perceptions of the candidate and the trajectory of the race.

When the debate moderator, Candy Crowley, fact-checked Gov. Romney it dealt a significant blow to Romney not just because he was wrong on facts of his Rose Garden address the day after the Libya attack, but because it destroyed the image Romney had been trying to project (with some success) since the first debate: the competent businessman– the technocrat.  Romney has been relying on his resume as a businessman to sell his ideas in plans, not specific content.

This approach has a key weakness.  When you say ‘trust me’ on the economy and to get program details right because of the skill represented by your resume, you cannot lose face.  Additionally, when you try to demonstrate your command of the facts, you cannot just flatly get it wrong.  A technocrat has to demonstrate they can get it right when they act decisively. Romney in one simple exchange destroyed the narrative he was trying to establish about himself since the first debate.  Perception is everything.  Instead he showed himself to be out of touch with reality and lost somewhere in the fog of the right-wing blogosphere.   It most likely lost him the election.