Jim Lehrer was effective in one area as the moderator of the first Presidential Debate of 2012. That is, he convinced the audience to not be a factor by remaining generally quiet. While he was not very effective in controlling the candidates, Lehrer’s style seemed to work out well in facilitating his primary goal of drawing out ideological contrasts.
Even staunch Barack Obama disciples evaluate the first presidential debate as a solid win for Mitt Romney. When the late night talk shows all make jokes about the poor performance by their hero, you know there is a consensus.
It is my analysis that the three reasons for the Romney victory are (1) the split-screen comparison of body language, (2) consistently strong wrap-up statements by Romney on each topic, and (3) believable sentiments by Romney versus political rhetoric by Obama.
The debate was captured in two perspectives with four generally stationery cameras; the broad stage, a rear-view, a close-up of Romney and a close-up of Obama. If you look at a broadcast of the switched-angle (see http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Switche), Romney will appear to have provided the better performance. However, if you watch the split-screen perspective (see http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SplitSc), the comparative body language conveys an astonishing Romney victory.
Beginning at about 23 minutes into the debate, Mitt Romney begins to school Barack Obama. And the President responds, with nods and responses in agreement, including small words like, “OK.