WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Second Presidential Debate Analysis (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Second Presidential Debate Analysis (VIDEO)

President Barack Obama got his mojo back for the second debate, held at Hofstra University in New York on Tuesday. Mitt Romney came on strong and aggressive. Some say a bit too aggressive, but he met the President Obama who didn’t show up for the first debate.

In spite of the President’s strong performance, the race is still tight, which is what we have been saying all year long. In this debate, the President was powerful, firm, clear and passionate. And to all my White media pundits, he wasn’t an “angry man.” He was simply being clear.

We’re talking about that today with our “Washington Watch” roundtable: Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; Raynard Jackson, a Republican political consultant and president of Raynard Jackson & Associates; Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist and former DNC communications director; and Cornell Belcher, a political strategist and Obama 2012 pollster.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

President Barack Obama got his mojo back for the second debate, held at Hofstra University in New York on Tuesday.  Mitt Romney came on strong and aggressive.  Some say a bit too aggressive, but he met the President Obama who didn’t show up for the first debate.

In spite of the President’s strong performance, the race is still tight, which is what we have been saying all year long.  In this debate, the President was powerful, firm, clear and passionate.  And to all my White media pundits, he wasn’t an “angry man.”  He was simply being clear.

We’re talking about that today with our “Washington Watch” roundtable:  Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; Raynard Jackson, a Republican political consultant and president of Raynard Jackson & Associates; Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist and former DNC communications director; and Cornell Belcher, a political strategist and Obama 2012 pollster, with a cute, peach pocket square.

[LAUGHTER.]

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Let’s get started.

Lots of drama and emotion in this debate.  Normally, people talk about these debates as being sort of like boxing matches.  This was like being in the ring, and I love this serious exchange right here where the President threw a major, major roundhouse at Mitt Romney when the issue of Libya was brought up.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  And the suggestion that anybody in my team – whether the Secretary of State, our UN ambassador – anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive!  That’s not what we do.  That’s not what I do as president.  That’s not what I do as commander in chief.

MS. CANDY CROWLEY:  Governor, if you want to –

MR. MITT ROMNEY:  Yeah, I –

MS. CROWLEY:  — reply –

MR. ROMNEY:  — I cer- —

MS. CROWLEY:  — quickly –

MR. ROMNEY:  — I certainly –

MS. CROWLEY:  — to this, please.

MR. ROMNEY:  — do.  I certainly –

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN:  Is it me, or did the President drop the mic?

[LAUGHTER.]

MR. MARTIN:  [Unintelligible] – sort of just like – boom!  “I’m just gon’ walk off.”

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  I mean steady, got quiet – and walked off.

MS. MICHELLE BERNARD:  Yes!  Yeah.  I mean what – what could Mitt Romney say?  I mean he was – he was so in his face.  He was so right.  He was so strong.  He was back; and, you know, particularly that coming one week before we’ve got the big foreign policy debate coming up, it was very – i- — it – it is – I think, shows us what we’re going to see in just – in just a – a day or two.

MR. MARTIN:  Even as a Republican, Raynard, you[’ve] got to say, “That was a boss move.”

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MARTIN:  “That was a boss move.”

MR. RAYNARD JACKSON:  Hey, he – he Jap-slapped ’im, as we say.

[LAUGHTER.]

MR. JACKSON:  And r- — to me, I would’ve waited ’til the Monday-night debate on foreign policy to go down that road.  To me, that was a moment for him to pull together and say, “Hey, we mourn the lives of our” – “our” – “our diplomats there,” and keep it above the fray until Monday night.

MS. BERNARD:  No, I completely –

MS. KAREN FINNEY:  No, he couldn’t have –

MS. BERNARD:  — disagree.

MS. FINNEY:  — [crosstalk] – because right before that, Romney was doing what he said he would do, by the way, in that Boca Raton fundraiser when he talked about the 47 percent.  He said, ‘If a foreign policy crisis arises, I will try to take advantage of it.’

OFF CAMERA:  Yeah.

MS. FINNEY:  And just the – the sentence before Obama’s comment there was Romney going after him, trying to politicize it and trying to criticize him.

One of the things that I thought was the most beautiful about that moment was anybody who ever thought that this president doesn’t love this country, doesn’t care about the job that he’s doing – that was real passion for the job and for this country and for the people who give their lives for this country.

MR. MARTIN:  And – [crosstalk] –

MR. CORNELL BELCHER:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — Cornell?

MS. BERNARD:  Absolutely.

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  Cornell, one thing I thought was great – because the – the camera angle that we just showed – some of the other camera angles sort of had the split screen and whatever.  In many ways, that was perfect because here you had the President standing up.  He turns.  He’s basically lecturing him.

Ro- — it looked like “Daddy” talking to a son and putting him in check.  That’s what it looked like.

MR. BELCHER:  — it was – it wa- — it was a strong moment.  And, look.  From – from a – from a character trait standpoint, I mean pollsters – especially Republican pollsters – who’ve been doing this for years – the strength and decisiveness is a strong characteristic for a president to have.  You know, you – say what you will about – about George Bush, but early on, George Bush had that strength and decisiveness in – in – in s- — in aces.  So, it is awfully important for the President to sort of look strong and presidential.

On the – on the foreign policy thing, this is where I think was the mistake of – of the Romney – of – of Romney and – and – and his strategy.  It looks like he is playing politics with – wi- — with the issue.  And whether you’re a Democrat or you’re Republican, in a time of nys- [sic – phonetic] – national crises, Americans want to rally around the president.  So, for you to look like you’re playing politics at that time really undermines you.

MR. MARTIN:  Hold it right there.  I want to play this here, because it speaks directly to that.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. ROMNEY:  I – I think it’s interesting the President just said something, which – which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Gar- — Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

PRES. OBAMA:  That’s what I said.

MR. ROMNEY:  You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror.  It was not a spontaneous –

PRES. OBAMA:  Please proceed.

MR. ROMNEY:  — demonstration.  Is that what you’re saying?

PRES. OBAMA:  Please proceed, Governor.

MR. ROMNEY:  I – I, uh, want to make sure we get that for the record – because it took the President 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an “act of terror.”

PRES. OBAMA:  Get the transcript.

MS. CROWLEY:  It – it – he did, in fa- — in fact, sir.  So, let me – let me – call it an “act of terror” – [crosstalk] –

PRES. OBAMA:  Can you say that a little –

MS. CROWLEY:  — [crosstalk] –

PRES. OBAMA:  — louder, Candy?

MS. CROWLEY:  — used the word.  He – [chuckles] –

[AUDIENCE APPLAUSE.]

MS. CROWLEY:  — he did call it an “act of terror.”

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. MARTIN:  Everybody’s focused on that part.

MS. FINNEY:  And he did.

MR. MARTIN:  I love, “Please proceed, Governor.”

MS. BERNARD:  Yeah, well –

MR. MARTIN:  Like, “I need” –

MS. FINNEY:  [Laughs.]

MR. MARTIN:  — “you to move on.”

[CROSSTALK.]

MS. BERNARD:  And it’s – you know, it’s a –

[CROSSTALK.]

MS. BERNARD:  — it’s a strong –

MS. FINNEY:  Well – [crosstalk] –

MS. BERNARD:  — sign of leadership.  I mean it’s not just that we want our men to be men – we want our presidents to be men, but as an African-American, you’re sitting – I’m sitting back, and I’m watching this, and I’m saying – I’m thinking in my head, “You’re not going to chump our president.  He is” –

MS. FINNEY: — right.

MS. BERNARD:  — “a man.  He is a strong, Black man.”  And I also love the fact that he was there to remind the entire world, ‘I am the President, and you have your facts wrong.’

MS. FINNEY:  There had been a few moments also prior to that where it seemed like Romney both physically and sort of in his tone – and you could see it in his eyes when he was trying that exchange – was trying to intimidate the President.  And it was like, “Oh, no, you did not!”

MS. BERNARD:  Yeah.

MS. FINNEY:  And that’s why he was like, “Go ahead.  Keep going.”

MS. BERNARD:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  And speaking –

MS. FINNEY:  “Keep it up.”  “Keep it” –

MR. MARTIN:  — speaking of –

MS. FINNEY:  — “up” –

MR. MARTIN:  — speaking of intimidation –

MS. FINNEY:  — “’cause you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

MR. MARTIN:  — speaking of intimidation…

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. ROMNEY:  In the last four years, you’ve cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.

PRES. OBAMA:  Not true, Governor Romney.

MR. ROMNEY:  So, how much did you cut ’em back?

PRES. OBAMA:  It’s not true.

MR. ROMNEY:  By how much did you cut ’em by, then?

PRES. OBAMA:  Governor, we have actually produced more oil –

MR. ROMNEY:  No, no.  How much –

PRES. OBAMA:  — on –

MR. ROMNEY:  — did you cut licenses and permits on federal –

PRES. OBAMA:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. ROMNEY:  — land and federal waters?

PRES. OBAMA:  Governor Romney, here’s what we did.  There were a whole bunch of oil companies –

MR. ROMNEY:  No, I — I –

PRES. OBAMA:  — no, you –

MR. ROMNEY:  — had a qu- —

PRES. OBAMA:  — you –

MR. ROMNEY:  — I had a question, and the –

PRES. OBAMA:  — you –

MR. ROMNEY:  — question was –

PRES. OBAMA:  — you want –

MR. ROMNEY:  — how much did you cut them by.

PRES. OBAMA:  — you want me to answer a –

MR. ROMNEY:  How much –

PRES. OBAMA:  — question.

MR. ROMNEY:  — did you cut –

PRES. OBAMA:  — I’m ha- —

MR. ROMNEY:  — them by?

PRES. OBAMA:  I’m happy to answer the question.

MR. ROMNEY:  I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal.  You’ll get your chance in a moment.  I’m still – [chuckles] – speaking.

PRES. OBAMA:  Well –

MR. ROMNEY:  My – and the –

PRES. OBAMA:  — Governor –

MR. ROMNEY:  — answer is –

PRES. OBAMA:  — [crosstalk]- —

MR. ROMNEY:  — I don’t believe people think –

PRES. OBAMA:  — you’re asking –

MR. ROMNEY:  — that’s the case –

PRES. OBAMA:  — me a question.  I’d like –

MR. ROMNEY:  — because I –

PRES. OBAMA:  — to answer it.

MR. ROMNEY:  — I’m – that wasn’t a question.

PRES. OBAMA:  Okay.

MR. ROMNEY:  That was –

PRES. OBAMA:  All right[?].

MR. ROMNEY:  — a statement.

[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]

MR. BELCHER:  The – the problem is –

MS. FINNEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. BELCHER:  — it is just what he did with Governor Perry at – at debates, too.

OFF CAMERA:  Republican debates, yeah.

MR. BELCHER:  I- — it seems overbearing.  It seems bullyish.  And with women voters in particular – and when the Dow tested with women voters, you can s- — it is a real problem, ’cause – ’cause that sort of – they – they see him in a room with – with – with – with foreign leaders, and you can’t be that guy.

MS. BERNARD:  And he’s dis- — it’s – he’s completely disrespectful, and it’s no- — it’s Mitt Romney.  It is the Republican brand that we have been watching for four years.  They are completely disrespectful of the Office of the President, of this president in particular.  It’s no different than – than some – you know, some – I was going to say something I shouldn’t say – than the person –

MR. MARTIN:  Go right ahead!

MS. BERNARD:  — than –

MS. FINNEY:  Oh, come on!

MS. BERNARD:  — than the individual who yells out during the State of the Union address, “You lie!”

MS. FINNEY:  Yeah.

[CROSSTALK.]

MS. FINNEY:  And – and voters don’t like that.

MS. FINNEY:  But the other thing –

MR. JACKSON:  But –

MR. MARTIN:  Raynard.

MR. JACKSON:  — but I thought what was interesting about that whole exchange was this was one of the few times we saw the President emotional and almost authoritarian.  I thought that was good, ’cause the public has not seen that side of the President very often.

MR. MARTIN:  I mean he’s nor- — he’s nor- — normally “do-drama” –

MR. JACKSON:  Very cool.

MR. MARTIN:  — “Obama,” very cool.

MR. JACKSON:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  But there are t- — cl- — first of all, it’s clear these two do not like each other.

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  That’s very clear.  And what also was interesting in terms of that exchange over the permits [was] Romney, first of all, according to the format rules, was not supposed to be asking questions to the candidate.

MS. FINNEY:  Right.  Of course not.

MR. MARTIN:  What the President did – ha- — had the body language expert on “Tom Joyner” this week; and it was perfect because, actually, what happened was the President turned away from him and began to address the audience.

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  And basically, he said, “You can stand here and be a petulant child.  I’m going to go talk to the audience.”  That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.

And I think, Cornell, to your point, people responded that way.  And that’s why you look at some of these polls showing the President won, and they say, “Well, Romney won on the issues, but the President won overall.”  Likability is still going to be a critical issue –

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

OFF CAMERA:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — in –

MR. JACKSON:  We –

MR. MARTIN:  — this election.

MR. JACKSON:  — are an “American Idol” society.

MS. BERNARD:  Yes, yes.

MS. FINNEY:  Right.  [Chuckles.]

MR. BELCHER:  [Laughs.]

MS. FINNEY:  Two – two –

[CHUCKLING.]

MS. FINNEY:  — things.  The other part for Romney was his facts were wrong.  I mean you can’t roll up on somebody like that and try to go at them like that and

MS. BERNARD:  And be wrong.

MS. FINNEY:  — your facts are wrong.

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

MS. FINNEY:  You at least have to be right –

MR. BELCHER:  [Crosstalk] –

MS. FINNEY:  — about what you’re saying.

MR. BELCHER:  — if – if you’re hubris [sic] – yes, you can.

[CHUCKLING.]

MS. FINNEY:  Right.  If you’re the CEO, yes, you can.

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  And – and to –

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  — and to your point – to your point, on that night of the debate, Politifact literally sent out five different tweets – repeatedly.  “Romney said this.  False.” “Romney said this.  False.”  And so we were sitting here, I mean, just getting it, and it was kind of like, “Okay.  How many more times they’re gonna send out something that’s actually” – well, something that’s actually true?

What must – well, first of all, your assessment in terms of – of Romney’s strengths in this debate.  I think one strength was when he really went after the President’s record the last four years on the economy.

MR. JACKSON:  That was brilliant.  That –

MR. MARTIN:  That probably –

MR. JACKSON:  — was brilliant.

MR. MARTIN:  — was his strongest part of this debate.

MR. JACKSON:  Without question.

MS. BERNARD:  You know, I – it was the strongest part of the debate, but it wa- — to me, any strengths that – that the Governor showed during the debate were completely overshadowed by just the sheer disrespect that he had for the President, the presidency and just the format of the debate.  I thought it was completely uncalled for.  But maybe it’s important, because it also shows the American public a little bit more about what – about who Mitt Romney actually is.

MS. FINNEY:  I do think, though, amo- — for some voters – I think for – for African-American voters in particular, I think we saw that as more offensive.  I think some voters probably looked at that debate and said, okay.  That was Governor Romney showing he could be on the same stage with the President mano a mano.  So, I do think – I mean I agree with Cornell.  I think for women voters, it was too much.  I think for most voters, it was too much; but, again, when I think about what are the – who are the voters that they’re trying to get, that he’s still trying to galvanize and motivate to get out for him, they may have seen it a different way.

MS. BERNARD:  Well, White –

MR. MARTIN:  Panel hold –

MS. BERNARD:  — males.

MR. MARTIN:  — tight.  Hold tight.  I[’ve] got to go to a break.  We’re going to pick up on that when we come back from the break.