I didn't watch the debate. I really didn't have any desire to do so. Over the years, I've come to believe that debates are overrated for several reasons.
1. Many people who watch them have made up their mind already.
2. Anybody can say anything. The word of most Politicians isn't worth much and it is worth absolutely nothing when they speak in "political speak" which is nothing but platitudes.
3. Most don't watch them.
Debates do have their uses, but more at the local level. That's because many candidates on the local level have little to no known record and will finally get put on the record with statements. On the local level, they are less apt to be coached up, and less apt to speak in political speak and say nothing.
On the national level, I don't think they are really needed, because debates are talk. Talk is cheap. Money talks, BS walks. I don't want to know what politicians say. I want to know what they have done.
The two biggest issues this campaign are these. The economy. Credibility. The first issue is obvious. When the economy tanks, the people in power are blamed. "Throw the bums out." If the economy is bad in 2012, Obama is done unless the GOP nominee beats himself (or herself). That gets to the other issue credibility. This issue is overlooked often because the political class and media don't care. Grass roots supporters, as well as independents, do care about credibility.
I'm going to ramble a bit here, but the stupidest term I hear from the media and the political class is that "so and so" is the electable candidate. Usually the so called "electable" candidate is called that because of current name recognition, money, next in line turn, supposedly appeals to independents (whether reality is true or not), etc. It's often a US Senator that is tagged with this label, which is irony because few senators win. People just do not like US Senators. They have long voting records, and it usually sucks.
16 Senators became president. 8 Senators were elected after the Civil War. 7 Were elected after the war. Andrew Johnson never was elected. Only three senators elected were sitting senators. Obama, Kennedy, and Harding. The history of senators wanting to be president is usually not kind, and usually they only defeat other senators. Here's the post Civil War election history for senators.
Obama (Senator) defeated McCain (Senator)
Bush (Governor) defeated Kerry (Senator) and Gore (VP, ex-Senator)
Clinton (Governor) defeated Dole (Senator)
Reagan (Governor) defeated Mondale (Ex-VP, ex-Senator)
Nixon (Ex-VP, ex-Senator) defeated McGovern (Senator) and Humphrey (VP, ex-senator).
LBJ (VP, ex-Senator) defeated Goldwater.(Senator)
JFK (Senator) defeated Nixon
Truman (VP,Ex-senator) defeated Dewey (Governor)
Harding (Senator) defeated James Cox (Governor)
Cleveland (Governor) and Harrison (senator) defeated each other.
Cleveland defeated Blaine (Senator)
Grant (Military) defeated Greeley (Senator)
I don't remember who the "electable" candidate was in 1992. The electable candidate in 1996 was Bob Dole. In 2000, Bush and Gore were the "electable" candidates. Gore's an ex-senator. In 2004, John Kerry was the "electable" candidate. In 2008, it was generally viewed as McCain being the most electable in a general election. Now it's supposedly Romney (no way) or Huntsman (I have my issues with Huntsman, but a case could be made there).
The media perceived electable candidate is often viewed as being "presidential" whatever that means, or that he has gravitas. Dole had that. He lost. He was a Henry Clay in some ways, the great compromiser. Sometimes too much was compromised and he couldn't be counted on. Where did he stand. Bush and Gore were both weak candidates IMO. Bush was the "compassionate conservative" and Gore reinvented himself into a faux populist. John Kerry was a joke as a person and as a senator with no credibility and questionable loyalties at best to the U.S. He was the worst "first tier" candidate they ran. He was considered "presidential" in the eyes of the media and political class. McCain couldn't even win Indiana. That's all that needs to be said there.
Credibility is important. When you say something, does it match your record? If it doesn't then I can't trust you. I can't count on you, and you lost any chance of my vote in the primary. In the general, you then better hope that the democrat pissed me off to the point where I'll hold my nose against my better wishes (ie McCain in 2008). With Rick Snyder's tax scheme (and the disappointing reps who followed him just because he's governor), and Bush's spending policies 04-08 leading to Obama, my tolerance is less and less for nose holding. I don't have to necessarily agree with a candidate. Rudy Giuliani and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues. I know what I'm going to get from him. Ron Paul is closer to my views than Giuliani, although I don't always agree with him either. I voted for him in 2008. I know where Ron Paul stands. I know where Gary Johnson stands. I know where Michelle Bachman stands. I probably know were Herman Cain stands, although he doesn't have a voting record. I think I know where Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty stand. I have no idea where Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney really stand.
My big fear are these two issues. The first is that a flip-flopper will be the nominee. Romney to be specific. His big weakness is credibility - or lack of it. That's an easy way to lose. In addition if he wins, will he enact RomneycareII and other big government schemes like we'd get with Obama's second term? That's what he was as Massachusetts governor. I haven't even gotten to the social issues yet, either.
In the age of the internet, it takes less than five minutes to find a candidate's past history, including voting records on issues. It is easier than ever to find out the credibility of a candidate when he or she speaks on a particular issue. Money talks and BS walks. We need our candidate, whoever it is, to make sure he or she is credible and has a good record on the economy, credibility, and competence. Else, Obama wins - or more accurately, the republican candidate defeats himself.