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I hadn’t planned to live tweet the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. As with many things Twitter and TV event-related, however, I couldn’t help myself. As a result, I live tweeted snark and observations about the trappings of the presidential debate.

Here are some thoughts about the evening’s festivities:

Somebody Didn’t Get a Nap

President Obama seemed off his game all night (and his grumpy face didn’t help), even stumbling into his closing comments. It was as if taking away a crowd reacting positively (and a teleprompter) made him a less compelling speaker than one would expect. Not having a positive and effusive crowd seemed more familiar ground for Romney.

Romney did keep telling stories early on about specific individuals he or his wife had met who wanted help. Before the debate was over, someone had already leaked the Romney debate story structure. You can’t get anything past the Internet, clearly.

It was an interesting TV juxtaposition with Romney on the left and Obama on the right. I’m not sure if that was that one of the things they drew for beforehand, or it was someone’s inside joke. Either way, with the higher altitude & thinner air in Denver, those two should have been able to drop kick each other 10 yards further than normal, but neither seemed up to the task. Clearly there was way too much smiling, handshaking, and arm patting between themselves and their families for it to get too down and dirty in the debate.

You Only Have 5 Seconds

Timing and sticking to the rules was a problem all night.

Part of it was the candidates. Both Obama and Romney treated the debate time limits just like they treat our tax dollars: no matter what anybody says, they act as if there’s always more to be used up. It really came down to the first rule of Presidential Debate Club, which is “You do not QUIT talking during Presidential Debate Club.”

The other part (and maybe most) of the timing and debate control problem was on the shoulders of moderator, Jim Lehrer. Lehrer, who suffers from a pre-existing condition (an inability to control a conversation between two big egos), was represented by grunts and stammering in his attempt to control the debate. While letting the candidates go created more opportunity for some snarky comments (both within the debate and on Twitter), he was completely at a loss to control the conversation.

Listening to Jim Lehrer talk, I kept waiting for the Jim Lehrer mask to be ripped off his face to reveal Ross Perot as a surprise moderator. It got so bad at one point, a rumor was circulating (and by “circulating,” I mean “I tweeted”) that Jim Lehrer had been doing a stint as a temporary NFL ref until last weekend given how little he seemed to understand about two-minute warnings.

Clearly, we needed a person standing next to each candidate to bonk them on the head when they went long or spoke out of turn.

The Twitter Crowd

Not surprisingly, the Obama campaign had a promoted tweet on the #Debate hashtag, but I was surprised it also showed up on the #DebateEXP hashtag. I had started using #DebateEXP for live tweets even though Mr. EXP, Jim Joseph, elected to skip live tweeting the debate. Since Obama had bought #DebateEXP, I also checked #Snoozefest for a promoted Obama tweet, but there wasn’t one, much to my disappointment.

When it came to other folks tweeting, there were a number of memorable laughs, including:

  • From Tim Dreyer ‏@Timbotown early in the debate: “If you are playing the Debate drinking game, you’re already drunk. Welcome wastoid,” and “They should have the podiums slowly move towards each other so they end up touching 5 minutes before the end.”
  • From Ramsey Moshen @rm: “At what point will they address how to fix the iOS Maps issue? ;)”
  • From @CarriBugbee: “How many swigs do you have to take when St. Reagan is invoked in the #debate drinking game?”
  • From Cheryl Harrison ‏@CherylHarrison: “DRINK EVERYTIME EITHER CANDIDATE SMIRKS. You are drunk. #debate  #debates #debate2012 #morehashtags #HiMom

Rope-a-Dope

Ultimately, the debate reminded me of a late career Muhammad Ali fight: it was all rope-a-dope, went 15 rounds, and didn’t result in a knock-out for either presidential candidate. – Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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  • Stephen Lahey

    This first debate was disappointing, from the perspective of Obama supporters; and life saving from the point of view of Romney and his camp. I agree with you that Jim Leher showed almost zero leadership skills as the moderator. Personally, I would like to see several times as many televised debates – each one focused on only one or two closely related issues – so that each candidate is forced go deeply into the details of their thinking about proposed solutions. 

  • http://twitter.com/wbendle Bradley Woody Bendle

    Maybe they could use MMA cage-match rules next time.  Just put the two of them on a stage and let them riff until one submits or is declared incoherent…