With the first Presidential debate of 2012 over, pundits and viewers alike will be arguing over who won and how this will shape the election. We believe the debate was essentially a draw, with President Obama perhaps winning on a couple of points whose factual status is in question. More to the point, the interruptions by Romney may have been his weakness in this debate. Evenso, it is unlikely most viewers will have changed their opinions overall.
Early in the debate Jim Lehrer lost control over the debate, though the back and forth between President Obama and Mitt Romney played out well. The questions chosen were more than adequate, allowing more pinpoint rebuttal and emphasizing the differences between the candidates. Sadly, the time balance was incorrect as President Obama had more time than Mitt Romney.
As we expected, neither candidate addressed in any manner the impact of interest rates on the national debt – an issue we believe will be hypercritical in the near future. In fact no clear answer to any of our questions submitted to C-SPAN were provided.
Early in the debate President Obama framed the state of the nation in a far better view than was accurate. In his first answer he notes that housing is improving and a booming auto industry. Yet we recently wrote about the fact that the number of foreclosures are inline with the expectations in 2010 when the Home Affordable Modification Program was labeled a failure and a need for a new way to help homeowners identified by Congress. Currently 11.92% of homes are in default (late 30 days or in foreclosure) an improvement versus 2010, but still at levels that are virtually all-time highs.
As for the auto industry, GM remains below the IPO price. This means that Americans are even further from receiving the money used to take over the company, if this will ever happen, and indicates that the markets consider the success for the company far from assured. Chrysler similarly has been less than dazzling, and is now owned by overseas interests.
So from the start President Obama phrased things in a manner that sounds better than facts provide. He also alluded to the deficit, an issue that held a fair bit of the debate, but failed to explain why he has added to the deficit rather than cutting it in half. A point Romney did not miss asking.
President Obama stayed on his key talking points in the debate. Justifying Obamacare, alluding to increasing teachers and education funding, continuing to fund renewable energy, and an overall disdain of corporations. Key to his plans are increases in taxes, that somehow the President expects to not affect the Middle Class, and increased regulation.
As for Mitt Romney, he too made his own missteps. There was not clarity in what will replace Obamacare, though he made it quite clear what are the differences between his program and Obamacare. He also failed to be clear in what besides removing Obamacare and lowering taxes will cause the economy to improve. Lower tax rates of course will help, but that is not enough to cause businesses that have left the country to return by itself.
Romney was also very rude, as debates go. He stepped upon the time of President Obama (though that favor was retuned as well), and several times ran ramshod over moderator Jim Lehrer. The impression may have been that Romney got more time, according to C-SPAN President Obama actually got more time to speak, but to do so he seemed to take it from President Obama.
Romney has also placed himself in a difficult position. He emphatically stated he will approve no tax cuts or changes that would cause an increase in taxes to the Middle Class. If the Obama campaign is able to name economists (at no point did President Obama name any of the experts that he stated agreed with his positions) that directly make this point, or can provide Congressional Budget Office (CBO) review that shows an increase in taxes to the middle class then Romney will be in a difficult position.
Likewise, we must ask who decides what are the programs worthy of borrowing money to allow to continue? The President? Congress? It’s unclear, but Romney was certain that many subsidies must go, like PBS. A safe bet is that this would also include Planned Parenthood, but would this affect the Natioal Endowment of the Arts (NEA)? What else is on the chopping block? Although we understand that given the debt levels many things need to visit such a chopping block.
On specific issues for each, we must ask how President Obama feels that the state of Social Security is essentially ok. That “a few tweaks” are needed is to understate the impending bankruptcy like saying lead ballons fly well (they can fly, as Mythbuster fans are aware, but not well or long). Also, were does the he get the overnight increase of $600 to retired seniors that he claims would be the result of Romney plans.
For Romney, the excuse that 2.8 billion in subsidy for oil companies is justified because President Obama gave $90 billion to ‘green’ energy companies falls flat on its face. Neither is a good option. Plus, he was unclear if tax increases to the high end of earners is off-limits or not, though it seems clear that it is unwanted by him.
In effect, both men failed to give the general public an absolute reason to vote for them. Republicans will still not like President Obama, Democrats the same for Romney. Independants will find that there are questions with both men, and neither has an effective answer on the deficit or job creation. Both candidates attempted to gain the sympathy of viewers, President Obama discussing his grandmother and Romney with his sons and his promise to not change Social Security for those on it now, neither being rather effective.
Perhaps there will be a slight benefit to Mitt Romney in polls for now. Not because he was so much better or his plans so much more liked, but because it is a different path and many find the current path to be ineffective or detrimental.
Factchecking from Politifact on several key items the candidates spoke about
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