Towery: Everything Now Riding on Last Debate

Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012 03:23 PM

By Paul Scicchitano

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While Tuesday’s debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was marked by a free-fall “fisticuff” exchange of political jabs, debate expert and pollster Matt Towery tells Newsmax that it also sets the stage for the third and final encounter to be the most watched in the history of televised presidential debates.

“I truly believe that this last debate — whoever walks away as a winner, if someone does — will probably win the presidency. And we haven’t had debates play this sort of role,” observed Towery, who was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s first debate coach.

Unlike the first presidential debate, Tuesday’s debate was in the style of a town hall meeting — meaning that pre-selected members of the audience got to ask questions along with CNN’s Candy Crowley, who served as moderator.

Urgent Poll: Obama or Romney? Who Won the Second Debate?

The candidates walked around as they gave their responses, and at times leaned on Crowley to support their positions — now famously when she appeared to correct Romney during a heated exchange over the president’s response to the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“These guys cannot figure out where they’re supposed to be standing or what they’re supposed to be doing in this town hall setting,” explained Towery, who heads the InsiderAdvantage polling firm. “They’re talking all over each other and they’re having to look to the moderator for all sorts of direction because they just simply don’t know whether they have time, whether they don’t have time; when they’re supposed to talk, when they’re not supposed to talk.”

The format gave way to a perfect storm when Crowley interjected “He did in fact sir” in response to Romney’s assertion that the president blamed an anti-Muslim video the day after the Libyan attack rather than calling it an act of terrorism.

“I’m sure Candy Crowley would be the first person in the world to say, ‘That’s not my role,’ but even she was taken aback to have these candidates looking at her saying, ‘Isn’t that true’ in regard to certain statements of fact, which I’ve never seen happen — ever — in a debate in which the moderator checked off on what was a correct statement and what wasn’t,” said Towery, a former national debate champion.

Prior to Tuesday’s contest at Hofstra University in Long Island, Towery predicted that the format would lend itself to an “oops moment” for one of the candidates.

“There was an ‘oops’ moment, but it had to do more with the two candidates and the moderator,” he said. “It was an, ‘oops, let’s not do another town hall meeting.’”

Even so, Towery described the president’s performance as “smooth enough and strong enough throughout the debate that he showed a huge contrast to the horrible performance he had in the first debate” Romney appeared “weak in the first half and very strong in the second half. He was so strong that if it were up to me, I would say it was a draw, period,” Towery said.

Urgent Poll: Obama or Romney? Who Won the Second Debate?

While the town hall style of presidential debate dates back only to 1992, it had already produced two memorable oops moments over the years — when George H.W. Bush famously looked at his watch and when Al Gore invaded the personal space of George W. Bush.

Towery now adds Crowley to his list of greatest town hall debate oops moments.

“I don’t think she had nefarious intentions . . . this format should be put into the dustbin of history,” insisted Towery. “I distinctly remember a time when all three were talking at the same time debating each other, which is certainly not what was intended with this thing. I have a lot of disrespect for this whole ridiculous process of a town hall setting. I’ve always been suspicious of these things but now I just plain can’t stand them.”
He added that both Obama and Romney made “major” mistakes on the night.

“Romney started out far too aggressive and then . . . Obama decided to get in the act too and started questioning if he had enough time and whether he’d been given enough time to talk — so suddenly everybody was a bad guy,” Towery explained. “Once both of these guys fell into this trough, suddenly Candy Crowley’s in the middle of it.”

No matter what the outcome, Towery predicted that the last debate in Boca Raton, Fla. will take on historical proportions.

“It sets up for tremendous viewership of the final debate — probably the highest we’ll ever see, even though it’s about foreign policy,” he said. “It’s either going to be decisive or, if no one wins it clearly, it is going to be the point that brings this election so close that it ends up being a Kennedy-Nixon type finish.”

Urgent Poll: Obama or Romney? Who Won the Second Debate?

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