2012 Presidential Debate – Economy and the like
Last night, President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney met in the first of three Presidential Debates being held before the 2012 Presidential Election. The debate was held at the University of Denver and was moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS’ Newshour.
The debate was set to focus on a few key areas for this first debate; mainly the Economy. Other planned topics of conversation included Healthcare and the Role of the Federal Government. They didn’t quite cover everything they intended due to some questionable moderating. More on that later…
The debate began with cordial greetings between the two candidates, and an acknowledgment of President Obama’s 2oth wedding anniversary to First Lady Michelle Obama.
The first three topics were centered around the national economy. Within moments, it was clear that Mitt Romney started off well, while President Obama was off his game. Throughout the debate, President Obama stumbled through what have often been VERY cogent thoughts and easily explained positions. It was a very uncharacteristic performance from the President, leading some of his supporters to assume he really might be that much better with a teleprompter, or that bad without one.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney took total control of the debate, often chiding the President for his roundabout way of answering questions. He seemed passionate, even compassionate at times regarding social programs like Social Security and Medicare, without coming across as callous. He did his best to explain his plan for tax rate reduction while eliminating many of the deductions claimed to keep revenues for the federal government neutral.
There were a few moments where Romney seemed almost like he was adding insult to injury. Romney pounced on weak moments while defending his own position. President Obama seemed what many pundits described as “listless” for most of the evening. He did become very animated in discussing Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordadble Care Act), and defended the passage of that legislation as expected.
One of the bigger stories (to me) from this debate was the amount of avoidance and inability of BOTH men to remain on topic and simply answer the questions posed by Lehrer. For example, Lehrer asked both men what they felt the role of the Federal Government is in education. Romney danced around it for 90 seconds, then President Obama danced less, but for longer.
It would have been easier for Romney to have said, “I believe our states need more control over schooling their children. No one knows the needs of those children more than the local schools and teachers. Federal involvement should be a last resort, not the primary source of control.” Then President Obama could have said, “We need a top-down approach to making sure America’s children get the most consistent education across the board. Now let me be clear; this isn’t easy, but we will be guaranteeing every child has the right education to set them up for the next stage of their education.” That would have been simpler, and probably would have been a more accurate perspective on each of these men. (NOTE: I’m not saying that’s exactly what the candidates believe, but that’s probably pretty close)
At the end of the evening, Lehrer’s moderation had been nothing short of disastrous, from all sides. Both candidates continually interrupted him and each another when trying to rebut points made by the other. It felt amateur, and at times all three men were speaking without hearing the other. Romney spent far more time speaking to (or at) President Obama than the reverse. The President spent more time looking downward at his podium.
All told, I personally felt that Romney performed better than anyone has seen throughout his entire 2012 campaign. I would say he won the evening, with the caveat that he was debating a President clearly off his own game. President Obama is an exceptional communicator, and he lacked the spark many have grown to expect him to deliver. I don’t think that will happen twice. He’ll be more than prepared next time.
I tweeted before the debate and still believe it to be true: this was a make-or-break moment for Mitt Romney. I won’t say he won the election last night. That would be incredibly foolish at this stage. I also felt it was a potential winning moment for President Obama, and I feel he didn’t capitalize on it. There are two more Presidential debates on the way, and I believe they’ll be more critical to the election of our President than we can imagine. Essentially ten states are on the swing-state list, and both men need to win most of them to secure the victory. Those states ought to be watching closely.
Next up – The Vice Presidential Debate between VP Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan. I’ll be watching this one in hopes that Joe Biden says some ridiculous things per usual. October 11, 2012 live from Centre College in Danville, KY. Should be fun.