● Romney Themes: Romney main theme all night was focusing on the middle class and on jobs, and he kept saying, “My priority is putting people back to work.” He did an excellent job of personalizing this too, which made him seem genuinely concerned about average Americans. To create jobs, he proposed (1) energy independence, (2) challenging China on currency manipulation, (3) balancing the budget, (4) cutting taxes on small business, and (5) improving retraining for workers.
● Obama Themes: Obama never really mentioned the middle class. He spent the night attacking Romney for trying to cut taxes on the rich, even after Romney debunked this. He also kept attacking Romney for hiding the specifics of his proposals: “he keeps saying repeal and replace, but he won’t tell us what he’ll replace it with.” At first, this seemed to work. But Obama kept saying it on every issue and it began to sound fake. Not to mention, he would claim there were no details and then immediately attack specific details he’d just told us didn’t exist.
● Romney Attacks Obama’s Record: Romney repeatedly hammered Obama on his record, noting “look at the evidence of the last four years”: (1) 23 million people unemployed, (2) the 37 million people on food stamps when Obama took office are now 47 million, (3) slower economic growth year after year, (4) middle class income fell $4,300 under Obama, (5) gas prices doubled, (6) health care costs rose an average of $2,500 per family, (7) food price inflation and electricity prices are up, (8) Obama said he would cut the deficit in half and he’s doubled it, (9) trillion dollar deficits every year, (10) Obama added more to the national debt than all other prior presidents combined, (11) 50% of recent college graduates can’t find work, and (12) one in six people is now below the poverty line.
At first, Obama tried to counter this by blaming Bush (war, economic crisis, unpaid-for tax cuts), but eventually he just sidestepped these attacks. At one point, he even seemed to ask Jim Lehrer to save him by suggesting they should move on. What’s worse, Obama offered no plan to fix this. All he proposed was taxing the rich, hiring 100,000 more teachers, building more community colleges, and giving a minor tax rate cut to manufacturers.
● Obama Attacks Romney’s “Tax Cut”: Obama kept saying Romney wants a $5 trillion tax cut and an additional $2 trillion in military spending. Yet, at the same time, he claimed the average family’s taxes would go up $2,000 under Romney’s plan. Romney debunked all of this, but Obama kept repeating it, which gave Romney the perfect platform to loudly and clearly deny that he plans to raise middle class taxes – something Obama claims in television ads.
● Whoops: The moment that really unsettled Obama came when Obama tried to demonize the oil industry for getting $4 billion in corporate welfare. Romney flipped this on him by pointing out that Obama sunk $90 billion into green energy companies like Solyndra, which is equal to 50 years worth of the corporate welfare Obama was attacking. Romney then went further and named the bankrupt green companies and mentioned they had been Obama contributors before zinging “you don’t just pick and winners and losers, you only pick losers.” Obama seemed stunned by the entire attack.
Romney later repeated this attack after Obama accused him of wanting to cut education spending. Romney used Obama’s own words about budgets exposing real priorities to point out that the $90 billion Obama sunk into these crony companies could have hired two million teachers – 20 times the 100,000 Obama wants to hire now. That stung.
● Romney the Reasonable: All night, Obama did his best to make Romney seem extreme by claiming he wanted to repeal everything, that he wanted to cut taxes on the rich, eliminate all regulation, privatize social security, cut education spending, etc. Romney forcefully denied each of these claims and made it clear that he wants to fix what is wrong rather than wreck the system. This came across as very reasonable, especially as Romney could identify specific parts of each bill he thought should be repealed or saved. Obama seemed unprepared for this moderate approach and just kept repeating the debunked lines, which seemed more and more desperate as he kept doing it.
● Deficit Plans: To cut the deficit, Romney wants to cut spending. His test is, “is this program worth borrowing money from China to pay for it.” He also talked about combining agencies, cutting duplicate programs, and cutting the number of employees, but mentioned this would be through attrition, which will make this a lot less controversial.
Obama countered by claiming he’d already prepared a plan to save $4 trillion, though Romney wondered why Obama hadn’t tried to get it passed. Obama also claimed Romney refuses to raise taxes and thus is not serious about the deficit. This led to an interesting philosophical argument about tax cuts and the economy. Obama insists that tax increases must be part of any plan to balance the budget. Romney claims raising taxes will depress economic growth and the real answer is to lower rates while eliminating loopholes to shift the burden upwards and then to grow the economy to bring in more revenues. That’s Reaganomics, folks!
Romney also pointed out that Obama said in 2010 that you don’t raise taxes during a recession, so he asked why Obama thinks its ok to raise taxes now, even though the economy is weaker. And he claimed Obama’s tax increases would cost 700,000 jobs. Obama had no answer.
● Oil & Gas Obama: At one point, Obama tried to take credit for oil and natural gas production being up in the US. Romney countered that this was all on private land and that Obama has actually cut the number of permits on federal land by half. He did not mention the Keystone Pipeline, but he did mention that he favors coal, which Obama left out of his list of energies.
● Medicare: Medicare came up repeatedly. Obama is trying to spin his $716 billion in Medicare cuts as savings which make the system stronger – he actually makes that claim in ads as well. Romney was ready for this. He claimed that these weren’t savings, they were simply rate cuts and that 15% of hospitals and nursing homes and 50% of doctors have said they won’t take Medicare patients if this happens.
Obama tried to counter by claiming that Romney wants to privatize Medicare and turn it into a voucher system. Romney responded that he wants to create a voucher alternative, so there would be two choices for people. Obama admitted this and backtracked to arguing this would leave people on the voucher system unprotected and would cost them $6,000 a year. Romney denied this, claiming everyone would be fully covered. Obama backtracked again and said this would bankrupt the government system because “clever insurance companies” would steal away healthy seniors, and he kept mentioning his grandmother.
● Obamacare: Obama claimed Romney wants to get rid of all of Obamacare and he rattled off the popular provisions: (1) coverage of preexisting conditions, (2) keeping your kids on the plan until age 26, and (3) no arbitrary caps on coverage. Romney said he wants to keep the first two. Obama countered that Romney’s plan doesn’t keep the first, but then strangely proved that Romney’s plan actually does. Obama also got into trouble when he tried to counter Romney’s mentioning that a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats will decide what kind of healthcare you can get. Obama denied this, claiming instead that they would try to force best practices on all hospitals. He cited the Cleveland Clinic as an example of how great this can work. Romney then flipped it around and noted that the Cleveland Clinic is a private business and thus proves the superiority of the free market to solve these problems. Obama had no answer.
After all of this, Obama tried to claim he copied Romneycare when he made Obamacare. This struck me as stupid because it made Romney the expert. It also let Romney explain where Obama failed to copy Romneycare correctly.
● Who’s A Crony?: Obama kept accusing Romney of wanting to help Wall Street, but this rang hollow because he used it in response to everything from Obamacare to education, and because Romney pointed out that Dodd Frank was a “huge kiss” to New York banks because it designated 15 banks as too big to fail and guaranteed them taxpayer protection. Obama was caught off guard on this and clearly doesn’t know the provision. Combined with Solyndra, this nicely exposed Obama’s cronyism. He also accused Obama of harming the housing market because Dodd Frank penalizes risky loans, but hasn’t defined that term, so lenders won’t lend. This is a sore spot for Obama who faces fire from the left for not fixing the mortgage crisis.
● A Jerk To The End: Right at the end, both were asked to describe their view of the role of government. Obama got down into the weeds and talked about hiring teachers and accused Romney of not wanting great teachers. Romney took this apart by explaining that Massachusetts is the top state for education because of his efforts. He then went on to describe his vision which was both positive and hopeful. He talked about the federal government’s job being the promotion of the values in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He talked about protecting the life and liberty of the public through a strong military, about the right to pursue happiness including protecting those who need help, about preserving religious tolerance and freedom and letting Americans pursue their own dreams. This was Reaganesque. Obama looked petty.
Then the moderator asked them to explain how they would overcome the partisan divide. Romney talked about being governor of a solidly Democratic state and how he found common ground without surrendering his principles. He mentioned that both Democrats and Republicans love America and he said it takes leadership to bring people together. Obama then began his response with a poorly timed partisan swipe at Romney, followed by claiming credit for his own accomplishments and accusing the Republicans of trying to help Wall Street and taking away people’s healthcare. So much for bipartisanship.
● The Reaction: The reaction has been brutal for Obama. All the pundits agreed Romney won and many seemed pretty despondent over Obama’s performance. T-Rav sent us this link of Chris Matthews blowing a gasket: LINK. Bill Maher tweeted that Obama made great points. . . for Romney. And the conservative world is intensely energized tonight.
In the end, what truly stood out to me was just how amazingly prepared Romney is for this job. Assuming he wins, he may be the most capable man to occupy the office in decades. Moreover, I am thrilled that his answers remained fundamentally conservative throughout as he never lost track of the true role of government and the limits on its power. This was a good night.
Thoughts? Anything I missed?