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Do Voters Like It When The Candidates Act Like Jerks?

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Nice guys, they seem to agree, finish last.

Image by Pool / Reuters

HEMPSTEAD, New York — The CNN focus group dial that measures voter response to debates isn't an exact science by any means, but it did show one thing consistently during the second presidential debate: voters didn't respond well when the candidates talked over each other, and especially not when they talked over the moderator.

And in a free-flowing debate (barely a "town hall") that featured Obama and Romney aggressively interrupting one another, and even edging into one another's personal space in a kind of gladiatorial arena, there was a lot not to like.

Neither man, in fact, came out of some of the exchanges looking particularly likable.

Consider who comes out looking best in the buzzy back-and-forth over Libya:

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to...

ROMNEY: Yes, I — I...

CROWLEY: ... quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That's what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror...

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

Or Romney here, trying to talk over moderator Candy Crowley:

CROWLEY: I got to — I got to move you on —

ROMNEY: He gets the first —

CROWLEY: — and the next question —

ROMNEY: He actually got —

CROWLEY: — for you —

ROMNEY: He actually got the first question. So I get the last question — last answer —

CROWLEY: (Inaudible) in the follow up, it doesn't quite work like that. But I'm going to give you a chance here. I promise you, I'm going to.

And the next question is for you. So if you want to, you know, continue on — but I don't want to leave all —

ROMNEY: Candy, Candy —

The posturing made good TV, but wasn't attractive to voters.


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