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Expert Available: Obama Re-Energized, Romney Less Aggressive, Crowley in Control at Second Presidential Debate, Says MU Expert

Oct. 17, 2012

Story Contact(s):
Timothy Wall, walltj@missouri.edu, 573-882-3346

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Mitchell McKinney, University of Missouri associate professor of communication in the College of Arts and Science, and internationally recognized scholar of presidential debates, analyzed last night’s second presidential debate.

“Both sides will claim victory. The real ‘victory’ of this debate – who won or who lost – will be played out by the post-debate spinners and campaign operatives trying to convince journalists and others that momentum is on their side. Barack Obama did what he needed to do to shore up his doubters – mostly from within his own party. Mitt Romney’s debate performance was strong enough for him to go forward with confidence in what seems to be a tied race.”

• How did the format affect the debate?

“As always, the citizens and their concerns tempered the candidates in last night’s town hall debate. For the most part, this was a somber exchange of ideas with intermittent bickering between the two candidates. Obama seemed to enjoy this debate much more than his first and seemed to enjoy engaging with the citizen questioners.
“While Romney was still on task to attack Obama, Romney was far less aggressive than he was in his first debate. Still, at times, Romney appeared a bit petty in his bid to have the last word. Obama came with more specifics tonight, and a greater willingness to both attack Romney and respond to Romney’s attacks.”

• How well was the debate moderated by Candy Crowley?

“Candy Crowley did a superb job of moderating this debate, attempting to include as many citizens’ questions while also including her own follow-ups and questions of clarification at appropriate times,” McKinney said.

In 1992, McKinney consulted with the Commission on Presidential Debates, advising the Commission on how debates could be structured in order to better educate citizens on significant campaign issues. The co-author of The 1992 Presidential Debates in Focus, he has co-authored and edited four other books and numerous research articles on presidential debates. Most recently, he advised the presidential debate committee of South Korea as Seoul officials planned their 2002 televised presidential debates.

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