Minutes after the second presidential debate ended on Tuesday, ABC pundits Matthew Dowd and Donna Brazile brushed off the three-plus minute advantage of speaking time President Obama had over Mitt Romney under CNN's Candy Crowley's moderation. Dowd asserted that this imbalance would lead to "conservatives and Republicans attacking Candy Crowley, and when that happens, that is a sure sign that President Obama won this."
Brazile seconded this taunt: "When Republicans lose debates, they always find something wrong with the moderator or the referee." The two ABC panelists didn't give such an assessment after the first debate on October 3, even though liberals, such as Howard Fineman, attacked moderator Jim Lehrer.
Diane Sawyer pointed out the difference in speaking time between the two candidates in her question to Dowd: "We noticed the final time count. According to one calculation, President Obama had more time tonight - 44 minutes versus Governor Romney's 40 minutes. First of all, what do you think of that, and how – how is this going to change in the next few days?"
The ABC political analyst immediately downplayed the advantage for the President, and continued with his point about conservatives' going after Crowley being a "sure sign" that the incumbent gained a victory:
DOWD: Well, first, I think voters in – the 60, 70 million people watching it, are not going to come away the impression. They're going to come away with the impression that both these candidates had plenty of time to talk about what they wanted. I think what this may lead to is a bunch of conservatives and Republicans attacking Candy Crowley, and when that happens, that is a sure sign that President Obama won this. When you start attacking the ref, or start attacking the umpire, it means you left a lot of plays on the field, and when you see that, you know they know they lost.
Brazile voiced her agreement with Dowd moments later, and added that "Mitt Romney was not on his game. He didn't understand his positions. President Obama understood his positions, as well as Mitt Romney's previous positions. So tonight, Obama won because he was able to answer Mitt Romney and all of those – all of the things he said two weeks ago."
The only dissenter at the table was former McCain campaign aide Nicolle Wallace, who zeroed in on President Obama's negative tone, as well as went on the attack against Crowley:
WALLACE: ...Romney did what he needed to do, and I don't think it's clear tonight that undecided voters - as few as there are - are going to be pleased with Obama's anger - his visceral attacks on Romney. And I think what Romney has done the whole time, going back to the primary, is to put one foot in front of the other and to make his case methodically. He did not fail to do that tonight. He succeeded, and, really, the big stark difference is – is that he had someone to debate tonight. So, I – I think that the Romney campaign will be able to make these points about Candy. It's a fact that he had less time; it's a fact that the room was stacked against him; and it's a fact that – that Candy played a more activist role than I think anybody expected.