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October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Nixon during 1960 debate

In the televised presidential debates — going back to the first ones between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon — it’s not so much what a candidate says but how they appear when they say it. And — forget about party affiliations — by that measure Mitt Romney was the John Kennedy of Wednesday night’s debate and Barack Obama was the Richard Nixon, most political pundits seemed to agree, even the liberal ones. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz remarked that he was “stunned” by Obama’s performance. “He didn’t come out confident, and Romney did,” he remarked. Nearly every political analyst wondered why Obama failed to question Romney about his “47 percent” remark or other awkward comments that had seemed to expose exploitable vulnerabilities. Instead, said longtime media critic Jeff Jarvis, “He acted like a prof with tenure.” Indeed, not a single liberal commentator offered a word of approval for Obama’s performance. The opinions of the professional pundits were reflected in a CNN “flash” poll following the debate, which indicated that 67 percent of viewers thought that Romney had won. “No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. Conservative commentators were thrilled. Bill Kristol said in the Weekly Standard that it was “the best debate performance by a Republican presidential candidate in more than two decades.” But Ed Kilgore in the Washington Monthly lamented, “If viewers thought Obama was phoning it in, that will matter, and it will matter a lot more if they are being told by every talking head in Christendom that Romney won big.”