Thirteen days after the initial presidential debate, the candidates faced off again. The same Mitt Romney showed up but his opponent was a transformed Barack Obama. At the October 3rd debate the President was listless and defensive; on the 16th he was energized and positive. As a consequence, Obama won decisively.
The first question concerned employment and Romney used his standard lines, “I know what it takes to get the economy growing… the middle class has been crushed over the last four years [and Obama is responsible].” Obama responded with his plan and observed, “Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.” Romney erupted and Obama responded, “What Governor Romney said just isn’t true.” It was the first of several occasions where he called Romney on his lies.
Three times Romney attempted a “gotcha” moment. They all backfired. At the first he blamed Obama for recent high gasoline prices. The President responded:
He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was... $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting. So, it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.
The second came when Romney responded to Obama’s accusation that he continues to invest in bad Chinese companies, “Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?” Obama replied, “I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.”
Late in the debate, the conversation turned to the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama recalled, “The day after the attack… I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people… that this was an act of terror.” Romney disputed Obama’s assertion, claiming the President had not called it “an act of terror.” The moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley agreed with the President. This defused a potentially difficult issue for Obama and made Romney look like he was twisting the facts for political advantage.
Obama had listened to the harsh criticism of his first debate performance. Not only did he call Romney on his lies and misstatements, he presented his own plan for the next four years. “The most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating… good paying jobs. Ones that can support a family.”
Obama made clear how his tax policy differs from Romney. “Asking the wealthy to pay a little more… For above $250,000, we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was president… [When] we created 23 million new jobs.” “Nobody who’s looked at [Romney’s plan]… actually believes it adds up.”
Female voters are vital to both candidates. One question focused on a women’s issue, “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace?” Romney punted with a lame remark that when he was governor of Massachusetts, he tried to include women in his cabinet, “women’s groups… brought us whole binders full of women.” (It turns out that the percentage of women in senior-level positions declined during the Romney Administration.) Obama directly answered the question and then segued into related women’s issues such as contraceptive coverage in Obamacare and his support for Planned Parenthood.
Another question addressed Hispanic concerns” “What do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?” Romney prevaricated, “The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think, should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States.” This appeared to match Obama’s position but Think Progress reported, “Romney has promised to end President Obama’s deferred action directive, which saves some young undocumented immigrants from deportation… He has also promised to veto the DREAM Act.”
Obama finished strong by emphasizing values: “I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy’s grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class.” Then he recalled Romney’s 47 percent remark,
“When he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about… People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income. And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.”Welcome back Barack!
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org