After stumbling a bit in the first Presidential debate nearly two weeks ago with Mitt Romney declared the victor then, President Obama has perhaps raised the stakes just a touch entering round two of the debates tonight.
Not all people are convinced that the debates mean all THAT much in the presidential race overall, but there are others who are calling tonight’s debate — in a town hall format — the single most important night in the 2012 campaign. Most eyes will be on the incumbent to see if he’s more “engaged” and willing to challenge the challenger on his points.
Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan squared off in a lively exchange last week. Will we see the same tone being set tonight from Obama and Romney?
Feel free to stay tuned to the live debate on television, and feel free to see what I have to say about it as it happens, starting around 7 p.m. MT. You can get the live updates by clicking on your browser’s refresh button.
Let the talking begin!
7:01 p.m. — Moderator Candy Crowley says she will have a “more activist role?” Hhhhmmm.
7:07 p.m. — A college student worried about being able to support himself in the future … Romney talks about maintaining Pell grants and loans, but some conservatives say they’d love nothing more than to cut from the Department of Education. Romney assures the young man he’ll do what he can to create jobs, but gives no details on how. Obama talks about building not just jobs, but good paying jobs. He also gives specifics on ways to do that — manufacturing, education, energy jobs.
7:10 p.m. — Romney says Obama “took Detroit bankrupt.” Obama hits back. Says Romney doesn’t have five-point plan, he has a one-point plan — having upper class play by different set of rules. Talks about the things that have been squeezing middle class families, so why go back to that? And Crowley takes better control than Jim Lehrer already when Romney tries to barrel in past his time.
7:17 p.m. — Energy policy. Obama’s “vision for future” and giving U.S. control over its own energy sources vs. Romney’s focus mainly on oil, gas, coal, nuclear, with future sources thrown in more as an aside. Obama does seem more aggressive so far than he did last time, more passionate. At 7:18, it’s almost like they’re going toe-to-toe over how much Romney says Obama administration cut licenses for energy production on government land.
7:23 p.m. — A question on taxes. Romney says bring rates down, simplify tax code, ease burden on middle class because middle income families have been hammered. Says he’d limit deductions on the high end, will not reduce share on upper class and raise it on middle class. Obama says he wants to reduce taxes on middle class and true small businesses, wants to raise taxes on those above $250,000 and especially taking rate on top 2% up to Clinton era levels. Romney talks like he understands challenges of those who are unemployed and in poverty, blames job losses — and did I just hear him say job losses overseas too? — on Obama. If I heard him right on that last point, that’s hilarious. Obama calls Romney tax plan a “sketchy deal.” Says the math doesn’t add up. Romney brings up time running 2002 Winter Olympics, how he balanced that budget. He doesn’t say that the Olympics budget was balanced with help from U.S. government.
7:37 p.m. — A young woman asks about equal pay for equal work. Obama says it’s not just a women’s issue, but a “family issue” because women are increasingly the breadwinners. Romney talks about personal experience bringing more women in to what had been looked upon as men’s jobs. Obama hits back by questioning Romney stance on contraception, Planned Parenthood, and economic impact on women and families.
7:45 p.m. — Romney asked biggest difference between George W. Bush and himself, because questioner blames problems of past four years more on remains of Bush administration policies. Romney points to trade policies, budget deficits, says his party has been focused on big business too long. Romney brings up “Obamacare,” opens door for Obama to answer back … brings up tax cuts, trade with China and Romney history of outsourcing jobs to China. Says Romney has gone to “more extreme place” than Bush in terms of social policy. Wish he’d answer the “Obamacare” point by saying something about … oh, never mind, he came back in the next question by pointing out that Romney supported the same basic thing as governor of Massachusetts.
7:51 p.m. — Obama questioned by someone who supported him in 2008, feels little progress has been made in terms of his own pocketbook with cost of living being so high. He answers by saying Romney supports the things that helped the situation get to the point where it is. Obama could have been a bit stronger here by using one word: obstructionism.
8:00 p.m. — Immigration question. Romney seems so “middle of the road” in his debate answers, he seems like an actual moderate. Gasp! Obama says he wants to reform immigration in a smart and comprehensive way while upholding current laws, hits back with Romney’s policy of “self-deportation.” Romney answers that by saying he doesn’t want to see rounding up millions of immigrants, but giving them that opportunity themselves. It turns into Romney going far off topic, into asking Obama about whether he’s looked at his pension, Obama says it’s not as great as Romney’s. What the …?
8:09 p.m. — Libya security question. Obama says he ordered beefing up security, investigate what happened, hunt down those responsible, says Romney used the Benghazi attack to score political points. Romney says the attack in Libya brings into question Obama foreign policy. Obama says the buck stops with him on what happened, defends his response and the reaction of his team, says any suggestion that his people were playing politics is “offensive.” Strongly said. Romney is questioned by moderator herself on his statement regarding facts of administration’s response in saying day after attack that it was terrorist-sponsored.
8:17 p.m. — The questioning turns to gun control regarding assault weapons. Obama says he wants to better enforce gun laws we have, broaden conversation about reducing violence in general and banning assault weapons designed for use by soldiers instead of citizens. Romney mentions “Fast and Furious” program, asks where the idea came from for that (patterned after, sadly, a bad Bush administration policy).
8:26 p.m. — Question on outsourcing jobs. Romney responds first, talks about need to keep jobs here (though a big part of his career had to do with cutting jobs as a “pioneer of outsourcing”). Romney calls China a currency manipulator, suggests tariffs, points part of the blame for losing jobs overseas on U.S. government regulations and business taxes. Obama says both he and Romney want to lower corporate tax rate, but he wants to close corporate loopholes while Romney wants to expand tax breaks that push jobs overseas, Obama wants to double exports.
8:32 p.m. — Question on biggest misperception on each as a man and as a candidate. Romney says he cares about everyone. Will Obama hit back on his previous “47%” fundraising comments? Obama says he doesn’t believe government itself creates jobs, that’s up to free enterprise system, but he wants a level playing field. And, yes, Obama brings up Romney’s “47%” comment. And that is a key point in the final remarks for both men. The question is asked how Romney can say he’s for everyone in public, and saying something very different in front of donors behind closed doors.
POST-DEBATE ANALYSIS — Romney continued his style of working hard as a debater to get in the last word on every question, to the point of changing the subject entirely at times. Yet Obama was much more of a toe-to-toe battler this time around, especially on the question of Obama’s response to the attacks in Benghazi and how he seemed to forcefully react to Romney’s claim that Obama’s response to the attacks weren’t serious enough, that he was more concerned about campaigning than he was about Americans dying. Obama raised key points, though a couple of times his timing still could have been better.
Romney put a lot of emphasis on the Libya attack, and that will not go down well because he was caught off-guard by the strength of Obama’s response. It was a response that seemed to stagger Romney, especially when the moderator herself called him out on it.
For the record, Obama’s exact words in the Rose Garden in response to the American deaths: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.”
That’s a bit stronger than the way Romney portrayed it.
Make no mistake, Romney is a tougher opponent than he may have been given credit for in the past. Maybe that played into Obama looking “out of it” in their first debate. He didn’t make the same mistake this time.
In the end, Obama’s final point of the entire debate on the “47%” statement was crucial. With Romney, there’s a feeling that he comes across as an “everyman” when he speaks in public. Behind closed doors, he can come across much differently. Which Mitt should we choose to believe? The one who claims to have the welfare of all Americans in mind regardless of which candidate they stand behind, or the one who claims in front of wealthy donors that he’s unconcerned about the “47%” come election time because they stand by Obama and he’ll never be able to reach them anyway.
This was a tough debate, looking much more like a prize fight than the first one. I give the edge in this one to Obama.
- Presidential Debate Number 2 Preview (davidscommonsense.wordpress.com)
- Biden’s Debate Boost – Voice of America (blog) (blogs.voanews.com)
- Jon Stewart Rips Fox’s Outraged, Sore-Loser Response To Vice Presidential Debate (mediaite.com)
- Five things to watch for in Tuesday’s debate (cnn.com)