President Obama finally found his debate legs today, equalling Mitt Romney on the floor and regaining some of the magic that won him the election in 2008. The president’s strategy finally found its clarity: reiterating what Obama has done and attacking Romney on his elitism and flip-flopping. Conversely, Romney has been doing what has worked so far: attacking Obama on the fact that America’s socio-economic indicators are worse than they were four years ago. Ultimately, both are right: one term isn’t enough to change America systemically, but that would have been the case under any president. Also, electing a political chameleon like Romney, who went from radical conservatism to a moderate stance is too visible a change – it only offers unpredictable American policies under a hypothetical Romney presidency.
Obama’s performance might regain him the edge over Romney, but the race remains as tight as ever. Romney’s continued good performance on the debates will only do him a favour for swinging undecided voters – not in the least for his reiterated support for involving women politically. (Feminism, for better or worse, offers great political currency for any political candidate, as flip-floppy as he might be).
The main issues typically focused on the domestic perspective, from the economy to gun laws – at least, the audience questions brought up the important issues.
Romney highlighted his record as a businessman to demonstrate his knowledge for getting America back on its economic track, but did not manage to answer to Obama’s charges that he was in the business of exporting jobs. On a related note, Obamacare and Romneycare are indeed one and the same thing – for all his bravado in denouncing Obamacare, Romney did not talk about how the two are really identical. Only, the scales are different, making the same good policy work for 300 million people is not the same as making it work for one state. It takes time to have a noticeable impact.
Romney is right in calling Obama out for the abysmal job record. Indeed, the actual job gains are eclipsed by the people who drop out of the workforce. For this reason, the actual jobless rate is usually twice what the official numbers say. But, Obama is not the one to blame for the reality – the economic dynamics at play are the result of decades of bad policies and he is a spectator as much as anyone else in this catastrophe. Romney would put up with the same reality in Obama’s place.
Put another way, a stagnant economy is the best scenario irrespective of the candidate, given the circumstances.
But overall, Obama came alive in this debate to even up Romney on the tally. How the undecided voters will swing isn’t clear yet, but November 6 is D-Day. We’re looking forward to the final debate.