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Second Presidential Debate ‘Raises Expectations’

President Barack Obama made a comeback in the second debate. | Photo courtesy of Barack Obama/Flickr.com

The Obama campaign, fresh off a debate win against Mitt Romney on Oct. 17, has come back to life swinging. The debate was a fiery one, with both candidates engaging in heated exchanges. President Obama repeatedly stressed the false nature of many of Romney’s accusations, often directly to the governor’s face: “What you’re saying is just not true.” Despite some instances of the candidates talking over each other, the debate was overall moderated extremely well. CNN journalist Candy Crowley held firm in keeping candidates to their allotted times and did her best to get the candidates to answer the questions from the audience rather than pivoting to other issues.

As a result of the debate, a new political meme has worked its way through the Internet. It goes a little something like this: “If you say earlier in the year you’re going to give tax cuts for the top one percent, and then in a debate you say, ‘I don’t know anything about giving tax cuts to rich folks,’ you need to get a thermometer, take your temperature, because you’ve probably got Romnesia.” That “Romnesia” line was coined by Obama at a campaign stop this week in northern Virginia.

The “Romnesia” line has exploded on Twitter over the past few days as others are making their own versions much in the style of the ubiquitous “You might be a redneck” jokes. This new attack line is in response to the breakneck speed in which Romney went from the self-described “severe conservative” to the moderate on display at the recent debates.

“Romnesia” wasn’t the only Romney related meme to go viral over the last week after the debate. A new Romney meme was created based on a gaffe in which Governor Romney described the recruiting effort for women during his gubernatorial transition as a women’s group bringing him “binders full of women.”

The line in itself isn’t all that funny but when taken literally, it can make for some hilarious pictures. Google image “binders full of women” and you will be in for a treat. This meme strikes at Romney’s main vulnerability–his complete lack of ability to effectively communicate with people when he’s not speaking from prepared remarks or memorized talking points.

If Big Bird was the icon of the first debate, then “binders full of women” is definitely the icon for the second debate.

During one of the most heated moments of the debate, Romney accused President Obama of not calling the attacks on the embassy in Libya an act of terror. Apparently Romney got a case of “Romnesia” again and forgot that President Obama explicitly called the attack an “act of terror” during his speech the following morning in the Rose Garden at the White House. Crowley jumped in during this exchange and backed up the president saying, “He did in fact call it an ‘act of terror.’”

President Obama slyly asked, “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?”

Indeed, Crowley acted as a bit of a fact checker that would not allow completely false accusations to fly unabated. For me, this is the job a moderator is supposed to do because when two candidates are on equal footing and one tells a lie, it quickly devolves into a “he said, he said” battle in which no candidate gains the upper hand. Having an active moderator reduces the incentives to lie during debates.

Voters weighed in after the debate in multiple instant polls that showed Obama with a clear win. The Reuters/Ipsos poll that was released that night showed that 48 percent of registered voters felt that Obama had won compared to only 33 percent for Romney with the rest saying it was a tie. It was a win sorely needed by the Obama campaign after the first debate shifted a three to four point Obama lead into a virtual tie.

This tie in the national polls, however, still indicates a strong probability that President Obama will win because multiple state polls still show Obama leading in key swing states such as Colorado, Nevada and especially Ohio. It seems that the swing in the national polls can mostly be attributed to firing up the base in non-competitive swing states. However, this doesn’t help when the winner is determined by the Electoral College and not just the popular vote. Ask Al Gore about that.

The president showed up to the second debate and got the decisive win that was needed. While the polls, according to the Real Clear Politics Average, are at an exact tie, there are still two weeks left in this campaign for anything to happen. Romney might have hurt himself with the “binders full of women” comment and could possibly get hurt by the new meme of “Romnesia.” The full effects of the debate are yet to be seen but one thing is clear, Obama is back.

Alex Caraballo can be reached at alex.caraballo@spartans.ut.edu

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