● The “Unbiased” Moderator: Candy Crowley was highly biased. She kept cutting off Romney and tried to talk over him, but never talked over Obama. She helped Obama out of jams several times, and the questions she chose were mostly left or far-left questions.
● Obama’s Theme: Obama’s theme was that Romney is rich and wants to help the rich. I don’t think anyone buys this because Romney’s denials are emphatic. Moreover, as I’ve pointed out before, Obama needs to give a reason for people to vote for him, not just against Romney. He still hasn’t done that. Obama’s reason to vote for him was: (1) he wants to give unspecified tax breaks to manufacturers whereas Romney wanted to bankrupt Detroit, (2) he wants everyone to go to college and he wants community colleges to retrain workers, (3) he wants energy independence, and (4) he wants to reduce the Obama trillion dollar deficits by taxing the rich and stopping the wars and spending that money on college and building roads and bridges. That’s a mishmash of small ideas that won’t resonate outside his base.
Also, Obama’s “Detroit” argument blew up on him when Romney pointed out that he wanted Detroit to enter bankruptcy so they could come out stronger, AND he pointed out that Obama did send Detroit into bankruptcy. In other words, Obama is smearing Romney for suggesting something Obama actually did. This stumped Obama and he basically said (paraphrase) “that’s different.”
Obama did better when he was asked to defend his record. Obama said he (1) cut taxes $3,600 for middle class families, (2) cut taxes 18 times on small business, (3) ended the war in Iraq, (4) killed Osama bin Laden and pursued al Qaeda, (5) passed Obamacare to stop insurance companies from jerking you around, (6) reined in Wall Street, (7) created 5 million jobs, and (8) saved the auto industry. None of this is true, but it sounded good and most people won’t know the difference.
● Romney’s Theme: Romney attacked Obama’s record over and over. This produced an extremely devastating moment right after Obama gave the defense of his record mentioned above. Romney suddenly hit him with this: (1) Obama’s jobs plan was supposed to create 9 million more jobs than he’s created, (2) he said he would put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them from collapse, he hasn’t proposed one, (3) he said he would put forward a plan for comprehensive immigration reform in his first year, but he never did, (4) he said he would cut the deficit in half, but he doubled it, (5) he said middle income families would see their healthcare premiums go down $2,500 a year, but they went up by $2,500, and Obamacare will add another $2,000 a year, (6) Obama claims he created 5 million jobs, but that’s after he lost 5 million jobs, for a net of zero jobs – also, 5 million jobs doesn’t even keep up with population growth, (7) there are 23 million Americans unemployed, (8) one in six Americans lives in poverty, (9) there are 47 million Americans on food stamps, compared to 37 million when Obama took office, (10) growth this year is slower than last, which was already slower than the prior year, (11) family income is down $4,300 under Obama. This was a powerful moment and completely wiped out Obama’s recitation of his own record. If Romney puts this in a commercial, Obama is in trouble.
● Where Things Got Tricky For Obama: Obama ran into some problems with his base last night and needed to do a lot of dancing. For example:
● Feminists: A question came up from a whiny feminist about women being paid less than men. I’ll debunk this at some point. Anyway, what the chicky wanted was for Obama to swear that he would support equal pay laws. Obama refuses to do that and he ducked. Instead, he danced around the idea of equality and he talked about “continuing to push on this issue” without saying what he was actually pushing on. He kept talking about the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which is not what feminists want, and he kept blurring this with enforcing laws against discrimination. This won’t satisfy the people who care about this issue.● Immigration: Romney talked about America being a nation of immigrants and that he wants to stop illegal immigration because they are preventing legal immigrants from coming. He also said he wants to give green cards to people with accredited degrees. This could mean a boost in overall immigration or it could mean a shift back to seeking educated immigrants rather than laborers. This isn’t clear. He said he wants employment verification and he wants a path to “permanent residency” for children of illegals. Then he attacked Obama for saying in 2008 that he would present a comprehensive immigration reform bill in his first year, but never actually presenting such a bill. He even noted that the Democrats had a supermajority at the time.
Romney, by comparison, gave the better answer for non-feminist women voters. He gave a general answer about seeking out women for his cabinet and about improving the economy so that workers would have more power over employers and thus employers would need to make accommodations for women – he should have mentioned the pay disparity in the White House. He also talked about 3.5 million more women in poverty today than when Obama’s term began. He also gave a vague statement that he doesn’t want an employer or a bureaucrat making decisions about contraception. This will work for independents, but will upset both the feminist left and the religious right as they will both interpret this negatively.
● Gun Control: Obama was asked if he would ban “assault weapons.” This is a problem for Obama because the left has learned they can’t support gun control and win elections, so Obama has smothered every attempt to raise gun control as an issue. But his base wants this desperately. So Obama danced. He claimed to support the Second Amendment (which lost him his base right there) before he mumbled about working on a comprehensive solution to violence through education and faith based groups. He kept saying code words like “mentally ill” and he kept talking about “automatic weapons,” which haven’t actually killed anyone in the US since the 1930s, but he refused to say anything concrete.
Then Romney spoke about enforcing existing gun laws, talked about the need for improving our values through encouraging marriage and then attacked Obama on Fast and Furious. His attack was a bit of a ramble, but will probably get people asking what Fast and Furious is. Candy Crowley needed to save Obama on this.
Then something funny happened. Obama suddenly attacked Romney for signing gun control legislation in Massachusetts (with another assist from Crowley). Obama must think this will unnerve gun owners about Romney, but what it really did was again paint Romney as “not a right wing extremist.” This probably bought Romney lots of moderate votes, without costing him any gun owner votes, and confused the heck out of Obama’s supporters.
● Outsourcing: A pro-union question was asked about outsourcing, and Obama walked right into a trap he set himself. First, Romney gave a solid answer on why Obama’s outsourcing claims are hypocrisy: (1) 500,000 jobs have been lost to China during Obama’s term because Obama made the US less attractive to business, (2) Obama failed to fight China on currency manipulation and refuses to label them a manipulator so tariffs can be imposed, (3) our corporate tax rate is 20% higher than Canada, and (4) Obama failed to China pirating American intellectual property. He should have mentioned Obama’s job’s czar outsourcing tens of thousands of jobs, but he didn’t.
Obama countered that he too wants lower taxes, which means his plan is the same as Romney’s plan, which he’s criticizing. He then claimed he wants to stop loopholes that let companies take deductions for shipping jobs overseas (fyi, there are no such deductions), and he claimed he has been fighting China. Next, he claimed Romney wants to make more deductions to ship jobs overseas, which comes across as an obvious lie. Then he tried to smear Romney by claiming that Romney invested in companies that sent jobs to China. He even claimed that Romney has invested in a company that makes surveillance gear which China uses to oppress its people. Bad Romney.
That’s when things went wrong because Romney pointed out that he does not control his investments because they are in a blind trust AND that Obama’s pension fund makes the identical investments Obama just smeared Romney for making. Candy Crowley again needed to save Obama at this point by cutting Romney off and talking over him. But the point was made, Obama’s outsourcing attacks are hypocrisy.
Obama tried to dance around this by blaming Romney for opposing Obama’s plan in 2008, which he says ended bipartisanship. But as Romney pointed out, he wasn’t the leader of the party in 2008, and with a supermajority, there is no reason Obama needed the Republicans if he really wanted to pass such a law. This won’t play well for Obama with Hispanics. Obama then made it worse by basically taking the identical position as Romney except that he wants to make all young illegals citizens.
Obama finished by claiming Romney wants to deport immigrants and with a race-baiting appeal by mischaracterizing Arizona’s law as letting police target anyone who looks Hispanic or black, which it definitely does not do. In any event, this gave Romney a chance to say that he would not try to deport 12 million people, which probably helped him a good deal with Hispanics.
● The Libya Muddle: Obama was asked who is to blame for the failure to provide security to our ambassador in Libya. Obama dodged and claimed he took responsibility in a general sense. He then claimed that he would not rest until they figure out who did it and got them. . . kind of like OJ?
Romney pointed out that rather than address this situation, Obama went to Las Vegas for a fundraiser the following day. Obama denied this and claimed he went to the Rose Garden and called this a terrorist act. Romney said this wasn’t true and said it took Obama 14 days to call this terrorism. Obama called that a lie and Candy Crowley backed him up.
Obama/Crowley lied. For 13 days, Obama blamed the videotape. He did use the word terror, but in a general context: “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” Meanwhile, his administration kept blaming the videotape, calling this a spontaneous demonstration, and refusing to call this an act of terrorism. They said this on television, in press conferences and at the UN.
● A Key Romney Point: It sounded to me like Romney proposed letting the top 15% of high school graduates go to college for free. If that’s true, then look for him to pick up a ton of young votes.
● Another Key Romney Point: Finally, we come to a question that was meant to crush Romney, but may have provided him with a key moment. He was basically accused of being George W. Bush the Sequel. Romney countered that (1) he wants energy independence, Bush preferred dealing with Arabs, (2) he wants more free trade agreements in Latin America, Bush wasn’t into free trade, (3) he will balance the budget, whereas Bush had massive deficits (he used an Obama quote about Bush’s “outrageous $500 billion deficits” to slam Obama’s trillion dollar deficits), and (4) the biggie: “Our party has been too focused on Big Business for too long. I want to focus on Small Business.”
This last comment is an endorsement of the Ron Paul/Tea Party/Populist cause and this will align Romney with this vast group of people who see the government as a kleptocracy where Big Business rapes the Treasury with the consent of Democrats and Republicans alike. Do not underestimate the significance of that moment.
Obama countered with the usual of blaming Bush for his own failure and he tried to cast Romney as helping China. Then he did something really strange. He tried to paint the demonized, reviled George Bush as a moderate so he could claim that Romney was to the right of Bush. Not only will this not make sense to average voters, but it calls into question the legitimacy of all of Obama’s prior claims about Bush.
ConclusionBased on the above, it sounds like Romney was a clear winner, but he wasn’t. Unless there is a devastating moment, debates are about impressions. And the impression last night was that they were evenly matched. That makes this a draw. . . at least for now.
By and large, the key points Romney made were lost in the muddle of the back and forth. But if Romney pushes those correctly, he stands a good chance of stealing young voters, Hispanics and independent women. He also will ignite the Tea Party and centrist populists. Obama, on the other hand, had no such moments, and he runs the risk of losing blacks and gays, who got nothing, and feminists, who found their demands rebuffed. It’s too early to tell any of this, so for right now, the debate feels like a draw.