Debate analysis: Federici calls Obama 'fallen idealist' who has 'lost luster'

Dr. Michael Federici
Mercyhurst University political analyst Dr. Michael Federici said last night’s debate favored President Obama, but it also showed him as a “a fallen idealist” who has “lost his luster.” Here is Federici’s analysis:

“Now that the presidential race appears to be a dead heat, there was much more at stake last night when President Obama and Governor Romney took to the stage for the second of three debates. Here’s my take on the significance of the second debate:

1. Conventional wisdom suggests that the first debate is most important for the challenger. By appearing on the stage with the president, the challenger, Gov. Romney, gets a boost because the president is demystified and the challenger appears to be his equal. This phenomenon not only occurred as a result of the first debate but the president’s poor performance coupled with Romney’s stellar performance gave the latter a bigger boost in the polls than most expected. Importantly, Romney made inroads with women voters where he was significantly behind.

2. The second debate favored the President. It was difficult to imagine that he would repeat his poor performance in the first debate. An average night would look much better than it was because, compared to the first debate and given the nearly two weeks of debate analysis since then, Obama would end up looking more like the guy voters have come to know over the course of the last four years. By contrast, the expectations for Romney were sky-high. He couldn’t possibly meet or exceed them. Not surprisingly, Obama did much better and Romney was solid but the key to this debate was contrast. In other words, the debate was roughly even but because of the outcome of the first debate the appearance is that Obama won.

3. Looking forward to the final debate next week one thing stands out in my mind that was apparent in both debates. President Obama has lost his luster. He no longer projects the idealism that was so prevalent in 2008. Gone is the talk of hope and change. Consider some of the campaign slogans the Obama campaign used four years ago:

1. "Yes We Can"
2. “Change” versus “More of the Same”
3. "Vote for Change"
4. "Change We Can Believe In"
5. "Our Time for Change"
6. "It's about Time. It's about Change"
7. "Stand for Change"
8. "Organize for Change"
9. “We are the change we’ve been looking for. Change can’t happen without you.”
10. "I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington. I'm asking you to believe in yours."
11. "A leader who can deliver change"
12. "Change in America doesn't start from the top down. It starts from the bottom up."
13. "A New Beginning"
14. "Help me take back America "
15. "Eight [years] is Enough"
16. "America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone."
17. "We must pledge once more to walk into the future."

These are no longer the themes of the Obama Campaign. Score the debate on technical points however you wish and it won’t change the fact that the debates are changing the public’s image of the president. When engaged in debate with Mitt Romney, the President is forced to defend his record and he can’t help but do so in a defensive way. The talk of hope and changing the world is gone. The new Obama is difficult to distinguish from typical political candidates. Four years ago he was anything but a typical politician. He may win the election but it is becoming increasing difficult for him to do so because he appears as what he has become, a fallen idealist who no longer even attempts to offer his hand to Republicans or to talk the game of a transformed nation and world.

Last night the primary obstacle to the president’s reelection was apparent and it wasn’t Mitt Romney. It was Obama’s self-image. Four years ago he lifted the spirits of voters by exuding the spirit of hope and change. Last night, as in the first debate, he was a typical incumbent politician, defending his record and counter-punching his opponent. There’s an edge to Obama in 2012 where there was healing hopefulness in 2008. It remains to be seen how voters will respond to the new Obama. Bitter partisans won’t change their support but independents are beginning to break Romney’s way. After the first debate, this trend was understandable. The second debate will help the president secure his base and rally his most partisan supporters, but it won’t do much to inspire voters who were swept up in the idealism of 2008. The Obama they voted for isn’t running this time around."
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