I wrote down some live thoughts for the first debate, so I figured I’d keep going for the second.
Big, big night. Romney’s surprisingly effective performance against the President in the first debate narrowed the race for the White House considerably, a major blow for the Democratic Party after spending the entire campaign in a comfort zone. That comfort zone has been blown to hell now, and a good performance from their man is required tonight in the “town hall” format.
This debate is going to cover issues both foreign and domestic. Those who follow me on Twitter might have seen my commentary on the VP debate, especially when foreign policy issues were brought up. This is actually one of those things being discussed that I would read more on and know more about, so forgive me if my thoughts on those portions are a bit more fleshed out.
Right now, before the debate starts, I’d predict what nearly all debates are: a result that is too close to call, where both candidates put in the required effort to stop the other from dominating. Obama has to do better, be a bit more aggressive. Romney knows this, and will have to try and counter that. He still hasn’t done enough to win this election, so he has to land some shots tonight. If Obama consolidates current leads in many close states, Romney will simply run out of time to surpass him.
So, here we go.
0201: Starting a little bit late. Simple format: Random sample of independent voters get to ask questions, two minutes an answer, one minute for debate.
0203: And here they are. Oh, traditional tie colours have been reversed! Exciting!
0204: Romney first: How will random student get a job after college, essentially? Talks about his education policy in Massachusetts, some solid policy outlining here, though he focuses on high school a lot. Emphasising his business experience when it comes to job creation. Says “I know how to make jobs” a lot. Bit of a parrot thing there.
0205: Obama doesn’t look quite as tired as last time. Takes this first chance to name drop the number of jobs he’s created in his first term. Nails Romney on his auto-bailout comments. He’s here to play everybody. His speech here is actually a bit more vague than Romney’s in terms of actual ideas. Then starts talking about investment in green energy. Good solid stuff there, that I tend to agree with. Wants to take “war money” and spend it on America.
0208: How would you help those currently unemployed? Romney says Obama has had four years to do something and failed. Criticises the tricky things Obama campo does with the jobs numbers, which is a fair reply. Dictates to Obama about the auto-bailout, laying it at his feet. Looks good there. Obama responds, says “it just isn’t true!” Wow, he’s way more aggressive tonight. Super critical of Romney’s economic history and plans, his support for the higher earners. Tearing him to pieces here, this is his best stuff of both debates.
0211: Next question: Opinions of gas prices? Obama wants to control America’s energy, and lays out his accomplishments in that regard. General increase in fossil fuel jobs and production, and then back on the green energy drum. He’s pushing that hard, talking about how it will help Americans pockets, not just their air. Hits Romney on his plans for lack of regulation and “clean” energy. Wants to make the US a green energy hub, links it back to first question. Good, strong.
0214: Romney claims fossil fuel production is down, not up, due to lack of permits? Criticises Obama for some environmental laws, goes back to his standard praise of fossil fuel options. Pretty similar answers here, Romney stretching to sound different I think. Romney wants to give out more fossil fuel permits, no mention of green energy. Yeesh.
0216: Can government reduce energy prices? Obama again calls Romney a liar, he’s hitting him over and over. Goes back to his creation of more fossil fuel outlets, not sure whose being truthful here. Slams Romney on some event in his governorship when he shut down a coalmine. Obama is on the attack big time, let’s see if he’ll keep it up. Obama repeating himself on how green energy will work out to American’s economic advantage.
0218: Argument time. Romney says Obama cut permits. Obama disagrees. Romney sounding super tetchy, getting baited I think. Obama responds, saying he cut permits to land that wasn’t used. Romney throws around a 14% number. Romney coming across as a bit disrespectful here frankly. Will wait for the fact checkers to see whose being more truthful here. Romney isn’t wrong when he says fuel prices have gone up.
0220: If your policy is working, why are fuel prices rising? Obama says because the economy was in freefall when he became President. Ties Romney fuel policies to that economic mess, very strong here.
0222: Romney complaining about debate format, leave it out Mitt. Gets to go on briefly about his desire to make more fuel jobs. Debate is circular now.
0223: Will Romney discuss his position on various tax credits? Romney wants to simplify the tax code, lower taxes for the middle class. He hit Obama for this hard in the first debate, back in the swing of things here. Says he will not lower tax rates on higher earners? Really? Says he’ll have a general deduction that people can choose credits from, or something. I’ll admit, I zone out when politicians discuss tax plans. Romney sounds strong anyway, well rehearsed on this point. “Buried” is his go-to word for the middle class question.
0227: Obama has a simple plan: Give the middle-class “relief” from decades of high taxes. He said he would cut taxes for the middle class and he has. Wants to continue. I think that talking in simple terms about his presidential record here is very effective. Now, the wealthy. Wants to tax the highest 3% of earners more, can’t because of a Republican congress. Namedrops Clinton’s economic success. Disagrees with idea that upper class tax cuts grow the economy. Reaching a bit when he namedrops the hiring of veterans.
0230: Romney is up. He isn’t look to cut taxes for high-income people, lower them for the middle-class. It’s really just basic economic talking points here, how richer people can create more jobs, trickle-down etc. Romney is doing his best to make it seem like this is all good, but not sure how it really goes over. Again talks about his “private sector experience”.
0232: Obama to respond on Romney’s middle-class tax cut/high-class non-cut. Obama laughs at it, nice. Starts criticising Romney’s other spending plans, which he can’t possibly afford under his apparent policy. He is going after those policies, Big-Bird and all, with a vengeance here. You have to wonder if his aggressive tone will go too far at some point. The word “trillion” is being thrown around a lot here. Obama’s main point is that Romney’s plan will cost people money.
0234: Gotta say, this moderator seems a little friendlier to Obama. She asks Romney “If your plan doesn’t add up…” and Romney just cuts her off and starts talking about his success in running budgets as a Governor. Implies that Obama’s plans lead to bankruptcy to the country. Not too bad.
0236: Obama: What are you going to do about gender inequality in the workplace? Talks about how he was raised by a single mom, then talks about his grandmother. Proper sentimental stuff here, will appeal to some and not to others. Talks about women’s new role as primary breadwinners. No real specific policies though, disappointing. Talks about his success in getting more women into third-level education, but I actually thought this answer was his weakest yet.
0239: Romney talks about his pro-active approach to finding women for his governor cabinet, that’s a good answer. Says under his economy, people will be anxious to employ women, but like Obama he is scant on actual policy, just a lot of general notions about “strong economy=more women employed”. In the end, both guys are basically saying the same thing here, it’s just Romney tying it into the unemployment rate.
0242: Obama responds: Hits Romney on his apparent lack of support for some gender equality law. Talks about how women are treated in his health laws, namedrops the contraceptive thing, rather bravely I think. Risky making a fight out of that, even if it’s part of direct attacks on Romney. Better when he talks about cervical screenings and the like, though I think we are way off topic at this point, it’s now just “general women’s issues”.
0244: To Romney: What is the biggest difference between him and George Bush Jnr? Romney starts by complaining about debate format AGAIN, let it go Mitt, that doesn’t make him look good. Hits Obama on the comments about his contraceptive opinions, don’t like Romney shoehorning in the last word like that. On the actual question at hand, he starts talking about his emphasis on fuel independence “cracking down” on China (doesn’t say how) and getting a balanced budget. Back on his small business experience, relevance? Starts criticising Obamacare now, this is way, way off-topic, even for a political debate. Think this is a weak answer, overall.
0248: Obama says he is creating jobs, will create more. Hits Romney on his tax-cut plans, which are similar to Bush’s time. Oh, hits Romney on his outsourcing of jobs to China. “Governor, you are the last person to get tough on China”. Best line of the night. Goes on to say that he has protected employees in legal terms. Starts contrasting Romney and Bush, with Bush as the positive, wow, interesting thing to do. Good answer. Obama clearly ahead here, in my opinion.
0251: To Obama: What have you done to earn my vote after four years of disappointment? Obama says he’s cut taxes on the middle class, small business. He’s ended wars, gone after al-Qaeda, reformed healthcare to make it more affordable, brought in tougher financial regulation, created jobs, saved the auto-industry. That does sound like a lot. But he wants to do more, investment in education, energy (always harking back to energy). Claims that he has kept some commitments, and will keep the rest. Spends the rest of his time criticising Romney’s record. Good stuff, what does Romney have in response? Big moment I think…
0254: Romney says if you elect Obama, you’ll get another four years like the last four, which is bad. Back on the reduction in job numbers overall, the lack of reform for social security, medicare, immigration. You know exactly how Obama will respond to that. Starts talking about the Reagan years later in the answer, reaching a bit now I think, though again, he’s accurate when criticising the jobs numbers. Romney’s big hitting point is the deficit, he goes back to that several times.
0258: To Romney: Plans for immigrants without green cards? He wants the streamline the legal system for immigration, then goes into extended detail into all the ways he’ll strip rights from the people in question. Ok. Then hits Obama on a failed promise about immigration reform. Fair point, given the congressional make-up.
0301: Obama starts out with a “melting pot” spiel, he does like to go that sentimental route. Says he’s “done everything that I can” to fix it. Says he has streamlined the system. If we go after those there illegally, should just be the criminal element. This kind of question is kind of base-pandering I think, neither answer is going to gain either candidate many votes. Hits Romney on his previous declaration that he would veto citizenship laws, support for the ridiculous Arizona anti-immigration laws. Strong on that point especially, Romney has to respond strongly to that when he gets a chance.
0304: And here he goes. Denies he supported the Arizona law completely, just a part of it. Goes back to that broken promise on “first year” legislation, it’s a decent point. Expands upon “self-deportation”, not in favour of “rounding up” people. Hard to claim you are with a straight face. Bit of a talkover moment here as Romney changes the topic himself, goes back to investments Obama has made in foreign places, this is really random stuff here. Personally, think that makes him look a bit desperate, but it will play to some people.
0307: Obama praises the ways immigrants contribute to America, silly stuff here from both men really. Bad way to end that portion of the debate.
0308: Ok, Libya. Why was enhanced security rejected for the Benghazi consulate? Obama goes into his reaction to the incident instead “going to hunt them down” etc, etc, but he’s not answering the question. As you would expect, criticises Romney for his press release gaffe, this is now “general Libya answer”, then “general foreign policy answer”. Weak stuff I think.
0311: Romney hits Obama on the consulate attack and the lack of security, hesitant on this point to an extent. Starts to criticise the lack of intelligence and Obama’s continuing campaigning in the aftermath. Not a very effective response in my eyes, I don’t recall Romney spending a few days grieving. Romney turning this into his own “general foreign policy critique”. Harps on Syria especially.
0314: Obama accepts responsibility for everything Benghazi related. Responds to Romney’s criticism by outlining his own response the day after, repeating his previous points. Slow here, emphazing individual sentences, but hitting hard at Romney’s claims about his campaigning. Think this is good stuff.
0315: Romney gets called up on an error, a bit confusing, something to do with the definition of the Benghazi attack as a terror attack? Seemed like a point for Obama I suppose, I’ll admit I was a bit lost. (Postscript: Apparently claimed Obama did not call it a terror attack the day after. Obama referred to such general incidents as “acts of terror”, so bit of a reach to claim he didn’t as Romney did).
0317: What has Obama done about the availability of assault weapons? Obama believes in the second amendment (my own opinion: the second amendment is insane). But, Obama has seen too many gun attacks in his term. So, he wants to bring in more enforcement of background checks and the like. Doesn’t want “war” weapons an American streets. Wants a “wider conversation” on the issue. This is always a dicey question, because America has this obsession with the second amendment. General tone here is “prevention, not cure”.
0320: Romney is not in favour of new legislation for gun control, just enforce the current ones. Wants to change the “culture of violence” through education. Then turns the question into something about his support for married families. Crazy switch of topic here, seems like Romney is trying to cram stuff in with the limited time up. Think this is a weak, rambly answer to a very difficult question.
0323: Romney now talking about his governor experience in non-partisan gun control legislation. Obama responds, claiming that Romney previously opposed any ban in assault rifle legislation, then goes on to agree with Romney’s, very off-topic, thoughts on marriage and education. Goes into his education plans again, a lot of that tonight. Rambly ending. Not a great section of the debate.
0326: Does Romney have plans to keep jobs in the US? Haven’t we covered this? Anyway, Romney goes back to criticising job losses in America as companies head abroad. More about his economic plans, all said before in the last while. More on “cracking down” on China, says he’ll put tariffs down on them. Big talk, I don’t believe a word of it. Romney wants to reduce corporation tax, we’ll always have a lower one Mitt! It would be a good answer though, but for the parrot like nature of it.
0329: Obama wants to lower the corporation tax rate too, but he also plans of ending loopholes they use to outsource jobs. And, as you would expect, Obama hits Romney on his outsourcing of jobs and talks about his own trade pressure on China.
0332: How will America get manufacturing back? Romney talks this chance to criticise China again, on counterfeiting and the like, corporation tax. Obama says outright that some jobs won’t come back, wasn’t expecting that, not sure you can really turn that into a positive.
0334: Last question, to Romney, now also the closing statement: What do you believe is the biggest misconception that people think about both of you? Romney says he has been characterized as someone who doesn’t care about most of the American people. Naturally claims otherwise, now decides to namedrop his faith. Knew something was missing from the debate. Goes over most of his previous talking points. Straightforward.
0336: Obama says that he has been characterised as someone who thinks “government creates jobs” which apparently isn’t true. Believes in free enterprise, but wants it to be a level playing field. Hits Romney on his social security policies. Surprised Obama didn’t namedrop the “47%” moment after what Romney said in his statement. Like Romney, straightforward, nothing too special.
0339: And we are done.
Obama won this debate in my view. He was aggressive without going too far, stood up to some of Romney’s policies far more effectively than last time, was more confident and assured. From both a policy and a “vote winning” standpoint, this was his night.
But it was not an equal to the last debate. Romney’s polling surge had already levelled off in the last few days, so Obama’s good performance tonight should continue that stabilization of his current tight lead heading into the final few weeks. Bad news for Romney, because he is running out of time really overhaul the President.
On the actual debate, it was more entertaining, but both candidates, especially Romney, played fast and loose with the rules, which wasn’t good to see.
Barring another debate performance like the first one, I don’t think Romney can win this election. Last debate is next Monday I think.