Mitt Romney clearly appeared more zealous, and perhaps better prepared for this first presidential debate this evening.
The question on many Republicans mind is what will this mean for his polling, particularly in swing states? Will this translate into greater enthusiasm in his base? Will his performance influence the few remaining undecided voters?
The biggest question that Democrats are asking is what was holding President Obama back? He seemed listless and almost disinterested. One would have to presume that he went into this debate with the stern advice of his team to simply avoid a debacle, rather than go for the throat. Romney was going for the throat, clearly, and so many folks are asking themselves where this moment was (see inset photo).
To my eyes there were a lot of loosely strewn facts on both sides, but Governor Romney seemed to be the most liberal with the truth. In particular, his claim that he (that’s ‘we,’ as he corrected himself) will create 12 million jobs, if elected. Moodys estimates that America will create 12 million jobs by 2016 regardless of who is elected. His claim that he would have to get another tax adviser, as he was unaware of a tax credit for shipping jobs overseas, when of course any business can deduct the costs of closing down an American based business as they port the operation overseas.
Dodd-Frank is not damaging local banks, least according to politifact, an assertion which Romney repeatedly stressed. And of course the Palin-esque reference to a panel of appointed advisers (death boards as Palin put it) is patently false. Massachusetts, to my knowledge, was already leading the nation in education when he took office, yet he twice took credit for that fac. His most accurate, telling point was that gasoline prices have doubled… that tends to happen when you destabilize the entire Middle East with a few wars. It is also a very good reason to invest in clean American green based energy solutions.
Yet despite all of that, he hammered on Obama and painted him into a corner on his record, which the Obama team has explicitly stated that they do not want this election to be about; a choice election. It puts Obama in an untenable position of blaming the country’s lot on factors that he inherited (despite how true that may be, it only carries weight for so long).
Obamas worst factual gaffe was his reference that the fundamentals of Medicaids economics are strong (almost a Lehman moment there, at least if we were in 2020). The fact is that it is on a slow trajectory towards insolvency, and that will need to be addressed in coming years.
There was a strategy at work in the soft-spoken, almost meek tone that Obama struck tonight… Perhaps if they move the next debate outside and a driving rain begins to fall, we will see the fiery orator that we have seen in the past? Romney wins this round; it will be very interesting to see what effect that has on the polls, and ultimately on voter turnout and sentiment.