2012 Presidential Debate – the Town Hall one

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney met yesterday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY (on Long Island). The debate was moderated by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. The format for this debate was “Town Hall” – it sounds like it could be exciting, but in reality the campaigns both asked for very controlled circumstances for the debate.

Last week, the two Vice-Presidential candidates met (see that review here) and the post-mortem response was pretty split. Pundits and media felt Ryan didn’t do as well as he could have, yet Biden’s behavior turned many of them off to him personally. Throughout the past two weeks, the Romney/Ryan ticket has been gaining ground in both national polls (which really mean nothing since we use an Electoral College to elect our Presidents), but the ticket has also been gaining ground in battleground state polls as well. The debate had the chance to stop the backslide for the Obama/Biden ticket.

If you want to see the entire transcript from the evening, you can find it here.

In retrospect, the evening went very well for President Obama. He was far more prepared, he was more eloquent than the previous debate (though still nothing like his 2008 acceptance speech at the DNC Convention), he was passionate, he was bold. His performance tonight may possibly be the defining moment for his campaign, a moment where he placed a tourniquet on the bleeding from his first debate and VP Biden’s performance.

Mitt Romney came off as weak in my opinion. What I felt was deplorable behavior from VP Biden in last week’s VP debate is what I saw with Romney in this debate. He interrupted Candy Crowley and President Obama on multiple occasions, and it bothered me because I prefer he do what he can to present as the man in charge, not the man playing from behind. That said, Romney did a good job. He presented his points well enough to the base while also appealing to the center for Independent voters.

One thing that strikes me in retrospect is that President Obama is struggling to defend his record through his nearly four years as President. Romney did well explaining to voters that President Obama had failed at many of the initiatives he ran on. President Obama’s record is less than exemplary. In fact, it’s a bit lackluster. Yet, many of my peers are more inclined to highlight Romney’s weird statements than Obama’s failures in office (which in my opinion are many).

I believe (and many post-debate polls show) that Barack Obama won the debate. However, when it comes to the specific issues that are affecting Americans right now, Romney polled stronger than the President. When it came to Economy, Jobs, Tax Plans, and Energy, Romney wins the trust of American voters. I suppose I should be thankful it’s not 2000, when the economy was in better shape, gas was around $1.60 per gallon, jobs were there for the taking, and Americans were optimistic about the future. Romney, despite what the Obama campaign says, is well-prepared to lead the nation.

The questions throughout the night ranged from Libya to Energy, from Equal Pay for Women to Tax plans, from personal anecdotes to Immigration in America. The 82 people in the room prepped questions, but I would guess many were left wanting.

If there is one bright spot for Mitt Romney, he performed well on explaining his plans for how to turn the economy around. His plans for tax reforms (which I fully support), his plan to drive growth in the energy sector, his plan to foster an environment of job creation were all laid out in the limited time he was given. I don’t feel like I’m hearing as much of that from President Obama. Romney reached deep into the middle class with his plan, and I believe it is the better plan for the country. He sold it well again, despite repeated attacks (the same ones we heard in debate number one), and Romney defended them well. Still, his performance will be interpreted as weak compared to a reinvigorated President Obama.

I expect we’ll see a 2-3% drop in national polls for Romney after tonight. The question that will be answered by the voters, specifically Independents, is whether or not Romney lost ground with that voting block in swing states. The bigger question to be answered is which issues have the attention of American voters. Is healthcare more important than jobs or the economy? Is equal pay for women more critical than energy independence for these voters? These questions are the ones that will decide which ticket is chosen on November 6th.

All told, it was an off night for people like me wanting to see Romney dominate once again. I felt that President Obama would come out stronger in the debate, and he absolutely did. It would have been an incredible victory for the Romney/Ryan had Obama under-performed again. We’ll have one more debate in this election, but early voting begins here in Tennessee tomorrow and is already underway in other states. Polls will help tell the story as we move toward November 6th, but ultimately the voters (really, the Electors) will be deciding how this election ends up.

If you don’t care, I have some great news for you: this will all be over in three weeks. Probably. Pray for no recounts, unless you support Romney. Kidding. Sort of.

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