Obama wins final debate, but has he undone damage of the first?



ADVERTISEMENT
For all the chest-pounding on the president's side of the aisle, er, Spin Room, the fact remained that Obama was back in familiar territory of long sentences, a relatively high usage of  the passive voice, with a lower reading ease, and attendant higher grade level scores. Once again, the higher use of the passive voice often is interpreted as attempting to evade ownership or shift responsibility. Obama's use of passive was more than double his use in the second debate. Typically, a bellicose style does not win over the undecided, who seek to be more reassured than shouted at.

Romney's numbers were remarkably similar during all three debates, which apparently reflects his steady, controlled, 'gee willikers'-type personality, with a direct, if quaint, speaking style. This is a style of moderate-length, declarative sentences, with little use of the passive voice, and short, direct, and easy to understand words.

Both candidates were attempting to sound (and look) presidential and it was apparent that the second task was quite wearying. Holding back on Biden-esque smirks and Al Gore-ish disdain, feigning interest while keeping their talking points in mind, looked to take a singular toll.

Now the question remains if the third debate, along with a narrow win in the second, is enough to unwind the havoc wrought by the first debate, which introduced Mitt 2.0 (or even 3.0) upon an unsuspecting American electorate. Indeed, who knew that Mr. Romney could even affect let alone reverse his apparent off-course trajectory in a 90-minute span? Seldom has the course of a major American campaign change in a shorter amount of time. And seldom has a foregone conclusion, Obama winning an electoral  landslide, collapsed as  suddenly.

Payack is president of The Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas.