On Wednesday, President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off for the first time as presidential nominees. The debate lasted for 90 minutes and focused on domestic policy. Out of the gate, Mitt Romney was on the attack and continued to fight that way throughout the night. President Obama defended his policies and attempted to draw clear lines between himself and Mitt Romney. In a final analysis, Mitt Romney left the debate stage feeling like the victor and has given himself a much needed lifeline in the election.
Many commentators will suggest that one candidate or another won the debate, but we are often communicating different things. When I say that Mitt Romney won the debate, I mean that he did the best job of being aggressive, skewing the facts in his favor, and casting doubt on the opposing policy perspective. Unfortunately, much of what Mitt Romney said were just flat lies or in direct contradiction to his previous positions. What is even more unfortunate for Democrats is that President Obama let Romney get away with the lies and contradictions all night.
President Obama displayed on stage last night the same behavior that I have critiqued before in his presidency: he’s simply too cool, calm, and collected to be effective. When Mitt Romney lies about the $716 billion medicare to Obamacare transfer, Obama should have called Romney out on it. Instead, Obama let the lie continue and Romney used the same lie in his closing argument. When Mitt Romney started to say that his plan in Massachusetts is different than Obamacare because of how it was enacted, Obama should have pushed back on exactly what is different between Romneycare in Massachusetts and Obamacare now. The answer is there are no substantive differences. When Romney danced around the economic regulation question, Obama should have pushed back on him and made him explain exactly what regulations he would get rid of.
President Obama has to stop playing nice. It is unfathomable to me that he has not yet learned that being the nice guy will not win you anything with your opponents in the political world. I have a few words for President Obama:
Please stop trying to be everybody’s friend. Mitt Romney wants your job and on Wednesday you let him look more viable at having it than he did before the debate. I do not know why you failed to address Romney’s most poignant flaws in this election, i.e. the fluidity of his positions, his notorious 47% comments, and his unpopular social issue stances. Over the next couple of days, the polls in swing states will likely stop leaning your direction and go back to neutral. If that happens, it is based on your performance in the debate. You have two more debates and if you plan to debate with the same lack of aggression as you did last night, please give Mitt Romney the keys to the White House after the last debate. At the DNC, you said something really, really important. You said, “I am the President.” I know that you know it, please act like it! The time for playing nice and being cool is over!
For high quality coverage and analysis of the debate, including play by play and color commentary of how it went down, see here.