Last August, I wrote about a short-lived boomlet for Bill Richardson in the Democratic primaries, and cited screenwriter William Goldman’s comment, “Nobody knows anything.” His lament was that in Hollywood, nobody ever really knows if a movie will be a hit or a flop. You can put together the best actors, the best director, a script that everyone loves, spectacle, a soaring score and end up with the most recent version of Godzilla. Meanwhile, some movie will come out of nowhere and become a big hit.
If you’re reading this site, there’s a really good chance that you’re a political junkie, and that means you probably have well-formed, deeply detailed views on politics and policy, and you watch the debate in a dramatically different manner than the casual news consumer. We can try to see events like the debates through the eyes of someone much less familiar with the candidates, and with much less thought-out views and policy preferences, but it is tough to mimic the thinking pattern of someone who is operating with a much smaller base of information.
Thus, the memorable assessment of one member of Frank Luntz’s focus group, on why she thought Obama won the debate: “He didn’t stutter.”
Had you asked me to list off a hundred factors that could determine public perception of the winner, whether or not one of the most gifted speakers in American politics would stutter would not have been one of them.
But that woman set the bar for success herself. And Obama cleared it.
(Of course, when Democratic operatives can infiltrate the Republican YouTube debate, I’m left wondering just how independent those indepependents in Luntz’s focus groups are.)