Friday, October 05, 2012

The debate: Was Obama afraid?

Ben Brafman - Obama's 'flopsweat'
Charlie Rose had a session entiled Analysis of Last Night’s Debate – you can find it here.

One of his guests was Benjamin Brafman, the famous criminal defence attorney from New York who has had many famous people as clients (including Michael Jackson and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

During the discussion, Brafman said that he watches people, because that’s his job as a trial lawyer. And while he was watching President Obama in the first presidential debate, he realized something.

A debate, he said, is not like a convention, where you are idolized. A debate is more like a gladiator fight.

Obama's flopswea:

And the crowd can sense when one gladiator “is afraid”.

“I sensed ‘flopsweat’”, he said.

It isn’t visible, but an actor understands when he is not doing well.

Brafman saw flopsweat on the President’s brow.

Brafman made a number of other points, as well. He believed that Obama caused himself damage in the debate. In an argument – one on one – you have to  bring passion, and Obama did not do this. So Obama, said Brafman, did himself damage among swing voters, who want you to instill confidence in them that you won’t disappoint them if they swing towards you. Obama did not instill such confidence, in his view. 

Brafman came to the debate thinking of Romney as robotic, and Romney humanized himself, whereas Obama spoke over his audience. Romney’s performance probably led to voters watching him saying: I understand Romney. I don’t understand what Obama is saying. I like Romney.


  1. Impact the day after? The pundits, including this guy, were wrong. Wrong. WRONG!

    Mitt is the Bill Buckner of politics, a guy who was having a decent career and a pretty good night until he let a slow roller under his glove. The error allowed the opposition a scoring run that eclipsed the rest of his career. (Game 6 World Series 1986)

    Big Bird!


    1. A little FYI Cat:

      Look at the graphs that show how "debate sentiment" changed after 24 hours of fact checking and surveying real people. The media talking heads all have a vested interest in creating a tighter race. Follow the money to Karl Rove's door, or the doors of the Koch Brothers, or any of their Citizens United super moneyed Super PACs.

      Furthermore, as the above link posits, the fix was in on the first reported "snap surveys" especially those from CNN where white male 50+ males were grossly over-represented. Finally even with the emphasis on the "Who won the debate?" question, CNN's own results showed (on page 26) only about a 1% movement on the "view favorably" question. A fact that went unreported.

      You want to be taken seriously? Do some serious research. Who gives a shit if some attorney is doing long distance diagnosis, like Bill Frist of Terri Schiavo, of the guy who appears to have sweaty palms?

      These last few post debate pieces are among the worst you have ever published.

      Sheesh! Next thing you'll be praising Romney's buddy, that asshole Kevin O'Leary.


  2. New York Time blog:

    Mr. Romney’s bounce has been less apparent in national tracking polls so far. The Rasmussen Reports national tracking poll held steady, showing a 2-point lead for Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama actually gained 1 point in the Gallup national tracking poll, however, and about 1.5 percentage points in the online tracking poll conducted by the RAND Corporation.

    Another online tracking poll, from Ipsos, suggested a strong trend for Mr. Romney, however.

    The Ipsos polls are confusing because it has released polls covering various time intervals in the past few days, but they tell a potentially interesting story if you work through them carefully.

    And, Anon, I thought Obama was dreadful in the debate - windy, rattled, a bit cowed by Romney, not on point, and not at all as incisive and decisive as Romney came across as.

  3. I didn't say Obama looked good and I'm not arguing against your opinion or perception of the relative merits of candidate performances.

    The "bounce" you cited is within the margin of error.

    Rasmussen results need to be adjusted for their Republican bias. See:

    That firm has the worst record of the national polling firms. Their average bias to the Republicans is 3.8%.

    The fat lady hasn't sung yet.


  4. The Rasmussen national is a five day average. It moves slow.
    By the way Rasmussen gave the most accurate outcome in the last election. Its who you sample. Most other polls are out sampling democrat's.
    Obama is a chicken hawk. He will say one thing about Romney in front of a worshiping crowd, but afraid to say it to his face. A mark of a weak leader.

  5. Rotterdam:

    Rasmussen was not the most accurate. Do you have a source for your claim?


  6. The polls in the first 4 days after the debate are the ones that will tell us if the fat lady has sung. I expect the race to have narrowed; the battleground states to have more in play; and Romney to have swung more of the Walmart Moms back to supporting him.

    That said, Obama is a fighter. If he really wants to be president for another 4 years (and I am not that sure that he does), he will recalibrate, shuffle his advisors (Axelrod needs a swift kick in the butt for becoming complacent); find another sparring partner to prepare for the next two debates (Kerry is wooden - somebody suggested someone like Carville, he of the death's head bone structure); and do his homework.

    If Obama does this, the next two debates should be a joy to watch. Nothing like mano a mano democracy in action! Obama should concentrate on pithy sound bytes; make sure he has at least 3 "watercooler"zingers (ala Big Bird for Romney in debate one); face Romney when debating and forget about taking notes; and fight him.

    Obama has his work cut out to explain simply what his foreign policy is. So far he has not managed to do that. And Romney will use a buzzsaw on his foreign policy.

  7. From DC Decoder on Saturday:

    Statistician and poll-watcher Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog for the New York Times, gives Romney about a 20 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. Still, that’s up from 15 percent before last Wednesday’s debate.

    “Mr. Romney’s gains in the polls have been sharp enough that he should continue to advance in the FiveThirtyEight forecast if he can maintain his numbers over the next couple of days,” Mr. Silver writes. “In a good number of the polls, Mr. Romney has not only improved his own standing but also taken voters away from Mr. Obama’s column, suggesting that he has peeled off some of Mr. Obama’s softer support in addition to gaining ground among undecided voters.”

    1. Cat,

      Now you're talking!

      Statistically there are too few undecideds for Romney to win, failing a catastrophic event. The vote distribution in the swing states presents an almost insurmountable barrier for Romney. The electoral college has a winner-takes-all rule in 48 states.

      So finally you mention Obama's odds of winning moved from 85% down to 80%. Well there you have it.

      Some of those clever liars in the USA used the daily "average" July temperature of 80 F to convince the International Olympic Committee to award the Summer Games to Atlanta. In the sweltering 90 F daytime heat, which was extremely difficult for distance runners and other athletes in endurance events, they realized that the daily high of 90 F and the nightly low of 70 F did average to 80 F. Data distribution counts.


  8. Anon, the whole ballgame changes if Obama screws up the next debate. He stands a chance of doing this, in my view. If he does, all bets are off. The contrast between a decisive Romney and a wandering Obama will peel off independents and less committed Democrats; scare away the Walmart Moms that he seems to be relying on; and increase the number of men who decide to sit on their hands or vote for Romney.

    His whole case for a second term has to be made in the next debate, or I think he is toast.

  9. Latest Gallup poll - an even race:

    Registered voters' preferences for president are evenly split in the first three days of Gallup tracking since last Wednesday's presidential debate. In the three days prior to the debate, Barack Obama had a five-percentage-point edge among registered voters.

    Gallup typically reports voter presidential preferences in seven-day rolling averages; the latest such average as of Saturday interviewing shows Obama with an average three-point edge, 49% to 46%, among registered voters. This Sept. 30-Oct. 6 field period includes three days before the Oct. 3 debate, the night of the debate itself, and three days after the debate.

  10. PEW says Romney leads among voters most likely to vote:

    6:17PM EST October 8. 2012 - A new poll, a different view.

    Mitt Romney now leads President Obama by 4 percentage points among likely voters after a strong debate performance last week, according to polling by the Pew Research Center.

    The GOP presidential nominee has a 49% to 45% edge, Pew says. Last month, Obama had an 8-point advantage among those most likely to vote in the Pew survey.

    Registered voters by more than 3-to-1 -- or 66% to 20% -- said Romney did a better job than Obama in their first presidential debate last week in Denver. Romney was generally viewed as more aggressive and forceful in their debate on the economy and domestic issues, while Obama sometimes lacked focus.

    The Pew poll has a different finding than Gallup's daily tracking poll. In a seven-day rolling average Oct. 1-7, Obama led Romney among registered voters, 49% to 45%, according to Gallup.

  11. From The Guardian - Oct 9:

    There are also two national polls today, both showing a presidential election with more movement than three ferrets in a sack.

    The shocker is a poll by PPP – for the left-leaning Daily Kos, in fact – showing Mitt Romney's favorability moving well into positive territory. Romney gets a +7 rating, thanks to favorability of 51% and unfavorability of 44%, while Barack Obama gets a -3 (47%-50%).

    PPP also puts Romney in the national lead, 49% to 47%, among likely voters.

    In comparison, Rasmussen's daily tracker poll is good news for Obama since he ties 48% to 48% with Romney.

    (There's also a Zogby poll out – but since they are as useful as an ice cream umbrella or Andrew Sullivan political analysis, we can safely ignore.)


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