International Consensus

Christopher Jerrolds

As almost 60 million viewers in the U.S. watched President Obama and Governor Romney take the stage in opposition for the first time, news channels throughout the United Kingdom also aired the presidential debate. Sky News, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News, and Al Jazeera English all aired the full debate. Pre-debate coverage and post-debate coverage were also held on Sky News and BBC News.

Pre-debate on Sky News consisted of a panel of Sky News’ Adam Boulton, Al Scardino, and Jon-Christopher Bua. Colleen Graffy, the former chairman of Republicans Abroad for the UK, also joined the panel. Boulton and Scardino attempted to remain nonpartisan, while Bua and Graffy took the party-line positions as Democratic and Republican surrogates.

The panel deemed the debate as possibly “make or break for the White House.” They agreed that it was Governor Romney’s opportunity to get his campaign back on track and that he must land significant blows on President Obama while remaining respectful. They also noted that Romney needed to show his charm as he did at Clinton Global Initiative last month. Graffy argued that Obama’s economic record would give Romney a leg up in the debate. However, Bua dismissed Graffy’s confidence by snidely commenting, “in Great Britain we know what they say about Romney, but I won’t repeat that here.”

Still, the panel did not expect many gaffes from the debate, such as the infamous moments of Al Gore heavily sighing and George H. W. Bush checking his watch during debates. With Romney’s 19 primary debates and Obama’s oratory skills, the Sky News team felt as if the two would be prepared.

After the debate BBC and Sky News finished the hour with post-debate coverage. BBC’s Washington correspondent, Katty Kay, reported her analysis of the debate from Denver. She claimed that the most fundamental difference between the candidates during the debate was their tax policies. In Kay’s opinion, Romney’s attack of Obama on deficit reduction was his strongest moment in the debate. Commenting on Romney’s claim that the deficit of the U.S. is a moral issue, she claimed that his view is a stark contrast from that of many European nations, but she noted that his statement was sure to find sympathetic ears with American conservatives. On the other hand, Kay wondered if the Obama campaign had decided not to be aggressive since his likeability ratings have been in his favor. Furthermore, she strongly questioned if viewers were able to fully follow the debates with the extensive details and policy rhetoric offered by both candidates. Kay concluded the BBC post-debate coverage by deeming Romney as the winner of the debate with his “solid” and “crisp” performance.

The Sky News debate panel met back together for their post-debate segment, ‘Obama v Romney: Who Won?’ It was quickly noted by the panel that Romney had shifted to the middle, in contrast to his debate rhetoric during the Republican primaries. Boulton asked the panel what their favorite part of the debate was. Bua answered, “when Jim Lehrer said goodnight.” He followed by saying that the debate was not inspiring and that Obama did not challenge Romney. Graffy praised Romney for systematically detailing how he would handle the economy, and Scardino said he did not have a favorite moment. Scardino elaborated on his answer by saying that he believed the Obama campaign’s strategy was for the debate to be as unmemorable as possible. Boulton finished the segment by asking, “Who won?” Bua declared it was a draw, Graffy confidently answered Romney, and Scardino said, “Obama didn’t lose.”

After two weeks in London and hearing nothing but bashing of Governor Romney, he finally received good press in the UK. Unfortunately, the debate aired live at 2:00 AM in London, so it is unlikely that many Londoners tuned in last night. Nevertheless, despite the lack of viewership abroad, there was an international consensus that Governor Romney won the first presidential debate of 2012.

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