Lakewood Ranch Herald

Commentary by Jim Jones | Did those presidential debates clear it up for you?

Here's a question for you:

Are you still undecided about who you will vote for after three presidential debates and a vice presidential debate?

Tell the truth: Didn't you already have your mind made up long before the first debate?

I know I did.

But that didn't stop me from watching every minute of the blood sport that passes as a debate. Even the moderators, with the exception of Bob Schieffer, got splattered by charges of favoritism or failure to control the battle.

Going into the debates, it was intriguing to me how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would square off face-to-face.

That's what I looked forward to more than anything.

Would it still be the No-Drama Obama who outlasted Hillary Clinton in the Democratic battle of attrition four years ago? Or would it be a new Obama, geared to a new presidential battle, shaped by four years of war and economic adversity?

And Romney, who had survived and eventually triumphed in the Republican primary, how would he do? Conventional wisdom was that Romney had been toughened up and sharpened by blunting the blistering attacks of Newt Gingrich, and turning back the charge of Rick Perry. More accurately, Perry was done in by his own faltering memory.

And then there was Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Partisans on both sides were licking their chops over that one.

Well, now we know how they did.

In what seems like a unanimous decision, Romney won the first debate, but Obama came out swinging in No. 2 and No. 3, making it a lot closer, maybe winning No. 2 and No. 3. Democrats could say their man won, while Republicans could make the claim that Romney did what he had to do: Show that he was presidential and not a war-monger.

The result: a much tighter race heading to the general election Nov. 6.

Looking back on all the debates and the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on TV commercials, I have a hard time believing that there can be anyone who has not made up their mind.

There are some who are playing coy, but you can bet they know who they will vote for. Undecided? Really?

Here are a few of my favorite lines, sampled from two of the three presidential debates:

Romney to Obama: "I've been in business 25 years and I have no idea what you're talking about."

Obama to Romney: "Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."

Romney: "You're wrong."

Obama: "No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong."

Romney: "People can look it up."

Obama: "People will look it up."

And a couple from the VP candidates:

Martha Raddatz: "What does that mean, "a bunch of stuff?"

Biden: "Well, it means it's simply inaccurate."

Ryan: "It's Irish."

Biden: "It is. We Irish call it malarkey."

Raddatz: "Thanks for the translation. OK."

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1