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Rash Report: Big Bird & The 1st Presidential Debate

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The fallout from last week’s presidential debate continues. Polls overwhelmingly called Mitt Romney the winner. But with two more presidential debates to come, two questions arise: Can Romney sustain the momentum he gained? And can the president rebound?

For a different perspective, we turned to Star Tribune columnist John Rash. Below is an interview between WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy and Rash.

Rash: “It’s important to note that challengers have previously done very well. Walter Mondale was considered the winner of the debate in 1984, Sen. [John] Kerry was considered the winner of the first debate in 2004; so incumbents are able to rebound. Part of the reason Gov. Romney did so much better in the public’s eye is that he is very well practiced at this. He had a dozen plus debates during the GOP nomination race while the president has not had this experience since he debated since Sen. [John] McCain four years ago.

Murphy: How did the candidates look on the split screen?

Rash: “It’s very difficult for anyone when the camera is going to be trained on them for 90 minutes. When in real time, they are trying to not look upset, trying to look thoughtful, trying to write notes and trying to get ready for the next presentation…In the future, all of them will realize they are going to be filmed the entire time and the reaction shot can be as important as the reaction itself.

Murphy: “A side bar though that is getting a lot of attention…Big Bird now has fake Twitter accounts supporting him.

Rash: “That happened in real time and it was relatively early on when Gov. Romney mentioned that PBS itself, and Big Bird as an extension, might be a target of some budget cuts. Several Twitter accounts under Big Bird’s name were created and the hash tag of Big Bird became one of the most followed on Twitter, and it really fed into a pop culture portion of a very numbers and date driven debate.”

Murphy: On a night that was not very good for President Obama, does the Big Bird flap help him?

Rash: “You know certainly when people talk about PBS, people may have an opinion, but a character like Big Bird with its association with teaching children is almost universally loved, so it was a unique choice of Gov. Romney to go after that as a target of a particular budget cut. He could have been much more general, talking about broader numbers; but he said it it got out there, and so far at least it has not hurt him in the post-debate analysis.”

The vice presidential debate is slated for Thursday. There will be two more presidential debates on Oct. 16 and Oct. 22.

You can read Rash’s column every Saturday in the Star Tribune, and you can hear him at 7:55 a.m. every day on WCCO-AM.

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