CHH Politics: WKU debate coach analyzes Romney, Obama speeches

Chris Joffrion

Editor’s note: This is an expanded version of a conversation with Debate Coach Chris Joffrion. A condensed version appeared in the Nov. 9 edition of the College Heights Herald.

Last night, Americans watched as President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term in the Oval Office. His competitor, Gov. Mitt Romney, offered a concession speech to his supporters.

“I believe in America, I believe in the people of America, and I ran for office because I’m concerned about America,” he said.

The president followed Romney an hour later with his acceptance speech.

“Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come,” he said.

WKU debate coach Chris Joffrion gave his thoughts on both speeches via email.

Herald: What are your thoughts on the concession speech?

Joffrion: Mitt Romney, ever the politician, has earned himself the nickname Slick Mitt for his smooth, slick speaking style. Last night’s concession speech was yet another example of this. Polished, poised, and controlled even in defeat Mitt delivered a silky smooth concession. Some might argue that his style was a little too controlled, too poised, and that he seemed insincere. At times during his very brief concession (only about half as long as McCain’s concession speech 4 years ago) I found myself wondering if this guy believed anything he was saying or did he merely don the mask of a gracious loser. The smirks and repeated reference to “praying” for the President leads me to think that even in defeat Romney still finds it difficult to believe in the path forward for America envisioned by Obama, supported by the Democratic party, and voted for by the majority of Americans.

Four years ago, McCain’s concession had a far more human quality. His words of support, praise, and respect for Obama seemed far more genuine that what we saw last night from Romney. Romney’s call for politicians to reach across the aisle to address the challenges facing our nation seemed like an afterthought wedged in the middle of a speech far more focused on thanking his supporters and praising Ann and Paul. In short, Romney’s concession speech last night was delivered smoothly with almost no show of emotion. His appreciation to his supporters was apparent and well deserved. His respect for and trust in his victorious opponent seemed doubtful at best and in my opinion woefully under-discussed in the speech. His challenge to his party seemed to be a subtle “we can survive this” masked by a brief, half-hearted call for cooperation. 

Herald: What are your thoughts on the acceptance speech?

Joffrion: Barack Obama’s victory speech was in many ways inspiring. He delivered an address that beautifully and subtly wove together a genuine appreciation for his supporters, respect for Romney and his hard fought campaign, numerous references to the challenges that face us as a nation and our ability to overcome each and every one one of them, and most importantly an inspiring image of our country as more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States, a nation divided by political differences but united under the mantle of freedom, progress, and respect for all. Obama clearly conveyed a message of progress through unity, mutual respect, and cooperation. It would have been easy to allow his re-election to cloud his judgment and inflate his ego, but I saw none of that from Obama last night. What I saw was humility, appreciation, respect, gratitude, understanding, and a commitment to all Americans.