The late Warren Zevon wrote the song “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” in 1991. After Wednesday’s presidential debate, it could be the new theme for the Obama campaign and even the liberals of MSNBC seemed to know it. Though some major media outlets attempted to limit the collateral damage.
When the Rocky Mountain debate came to an end, a black cloud descended on the liberal off-shoot of NBC. “A CNN/ORC poll of registered voters who watched the debate in Denver showed 67 percent believe Romney won the debate, while just 25 percent said Obama won,” the Hill reported.
For MSNBCers, it was a sign of The End Times. Perennial Obama Fan Club President Chris Matthews lamented the whole ordeal, whining this “wasn’t an MSNBC debate, was it? It just wasn’t.”
Matthews erupted into a vein-throbbing rant about how Obama should be watching MSNBC to learn his debate talking points. “Where was Obama tonight?! He should watch, well not just 'Hardball,' Rachel [Maddow], he should watch you, he should watch the Reverend Al [Sharpton], he should watch Lawrence [O'Donnell]. He would learn something about this debate,” he vented. Perhaps the new soundtrack for “Hardball,” will be “After The Thrill Is Gone.”
Fellow MSNBC host Ed Schultz echoed the panic and added Obama “created a problem for himself on Social Security tonight. He agrees with Mitt Romney.” “I was absolutely stunned tonight,” Schultz concluded. In fact, MSNBC’s focus group of “undecideds,” all thought Romney did well.
Throughout much of the media universe, the Obama faithful were equally distraught with Huffington Post giving the night to the GOP candidate under the headline: “ROMNEY WINS THE NIGHT.” Foul comedian and Obama Super PAC million-dollar contributor Bill Maher took to Twitter to express his frustration. “[I] can't believe I'm saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter,” he snarked. Movie maker Michael Moore joined in the distress, begging the president to do better. “Obama please be Obama! You sound like a Democrat (wimpy).”
The lefty propaganda site Talking Points Memo couldn’t even spin it in a good way. Instead, it ran the headline: “Obama Camp: Romney Won On ‘Style’” and featured a “Best ‘Zingers’” video that strongly favored Romney.
Washington Post wunderkind Ezra Klein was sarcastic. “If the Obama campaign was worried about Dems being overconfident going into the final stretch, tonight should allay those fears,” Klein commented.
Media entrepreneur and critic Jeff Jarvis asked if Obama had anyone who would “beat him up over tonight?” “Obama didn't just act professorial, as some are calling him. He acted like a prof with tenure,” Jarvis added.
Even Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, auditioning poorly for a national spot, mistakenly referred to Romney as “president” during a live interview.
Despite the math of the evening’s results, some major media outlets downplayed Romney’s big win.
New York Times analysis described the debate “like a seminar by a business consultant and a college professor,” claiming “they talked over each other without connecting their ideas to voters.” Writers Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg gave Romney the mildest of attaboys. “If Mr. Romney’s goal was to show that he could project equal stature to the president, he succeeded, perhaps offering his campaign the lift that Republicans have been seeking,” they wrote.
Liberal Nate Silver, the Times’ FiveThirtyEight blogger, tried to put a good spin on a bad evening. “Mitigating factor: not really a lot of bad Obama soundbytes. He was just flat, throughout,” he claimed. Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal was skeptical of a Romney victory. “Ouch. But is it a real sample? Hard to imagine how,” he commented in response to the results showing Romney winning 67-25.
Times columnist economist Paul Krugman first admitted Romney won, before then trying to undermine that victory. “OK, so Obama did a terrible job in the debate, and Romney did well,” he wrote. But then Krugman went on to say it should be about “substance.” “And the fact is that everything Obama said was basically true, while much of what Romney said was either outright false or so misleading as to be the moral equivalent of a lie.”
On CBS, Time Assistant Managing Editor Rana Foroohar said it all came down to taxes and questioned “whether Romney's math adds up.”
Both NBC and CNN were surprised that Obama never mentioned Romney’s 47-percent comment. NBC’s David Gregory seemed stunned that Obama didn’t use that line, complaining: “He didn’t bring up the 47 percent!” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was similarly surprised that Obama ignored “attack lines” like that one. Even the Post’s after-debate editorial took aim at Romney over that number. “One of the surprises of the evening was the number that remained unmentioned: 47 percent,” the paper wrote.
CNN’s ascot-wearing commentator Roland Martin, shockingly declared there was “no clear cut winner.” “There were moments where both were sharp with zingers & hard hitting lines,” he added. But later amended his positive viewpoint with crowd commentary. “A number of folks coming up to me at this NY debate party, stating they are Obama supporters, NOT happy with his performance,” he explained on Twitter.
Time’s Mark Halperin incredibly graded the “Denver Donnybrook” as close, giving Romney an A- and Obama a B-. This despite Time's senior political analyst claiming that Obama, “surprisingly, seemed more nervous and tentative than his challenger.”
Conservative response to the evening was pretty much universally positive. The best evidence of that came from MSNBC’s Resident RINO, Joe Scarborough of “Morning Joe.” Scarborough Tweeted: “Tonight was a big win for Mitt Romney. He dominated the debate in every way. This wasn't even close.” When even Scarborough is backing Romney, it’s a blowout.
But now that the debate is over, the liberal media fact-check machine will shift into high gear. Several outlets attempted to analyze the truthfulness of the debate. ABC news deployed a tome-like fact-checking page, complete with video and red and blue graphics.
Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.