The Presidential Decathlon Continues

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President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the second presidential debate (credit: CBS)

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the second presidential debate (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The latest presidential debate went the way that was expected, meaning it was a competitive, aggressive conversation in which the supporters of both candidates thought their candidate clearly and handily defeated his opponent.

The second presidential debate seemed more like an event in a decathlon than a definitive moment in a campaign. And as I considered it, with the race still very tight in most swing states, the entire campaign has felt like a series of events that have not independently persuaded voters one way or the other. Rather, the entire campaign, as it should, is having a cumulative effect on voters.

Even though much of the next 24-48 hours of the news cycle will be dedicated to who won the debate on Tuesday, without a major knockout punch landed, Tuesday’s debate probably didn’t move the needle much for either candidate regarding actual votes.

As many pundits mentioned on Tuesday night, many people who watched the debate may agree that one or the other candidate won, or had the better night, but that fact won’t change their vote.

I think most of America falls into that category because we already know that the voters tightly aligned with their candidates are not moving based on one debate, and there was not enough Earth shattering events on Tuesday night to change the mind of undecided voters.

I wonder though, how much difference it would make if all of us in the media covered the election, not by each event, but more like how we cover a decathlon, if we treated it more like a competition that is made up of several high profile events, instead of focusing on the effect on one event.

I think it would be a logical evolution, since voters, even if it is on a subconscious level, do the same thing. I cannot believe in my heart of hearts that any voter will make his or her decision based on how Mitt Romney addressed the energy question in the second Presidential debate.

However, I can see them basing their decision on how all of the major events stacked up collectively, the conventions, the debates, the speeches, the ads, etc. It would make sense if we cover the election in the same way.

And if you think about it, using this new method could be a lot of fun. All we would need to do is add a big scoreboard to any story covering a major election debate or event. That way, instead of over evaluating the minutia, we can cover that story the way it was intended.

But let’s face it, media coverage is not concocted by some conspiratorial committee somewhere. Coverage of elections is what it is because it will draw viewers. Cable networks wouldn’t invest millions of dollars into holograms of budget deficits and moodmeters if it wasn’t what the viewers wanted.

We may make our ultimate decision on the ballot based on the collective score of all of the events over a campaign, but we truly enjoy examining each play of each competition and making sure we knew who won or who lost each round, even if it really doesn’t matter.

So the decathlon will continue, along with the microscopic examination of each event as it comes. The only thing left to guess is who takes home the gold and who gets the silver, that, and to over analyze the next debate.About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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