First Round to Romney

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama, right, debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. 

How could Barack Obama have been so feeble a debater? Mitt Romney gave him one opening after another, but Obama stuck closely to prescripted talking points.

Romney’s strategy, as it has been throughout the campaign, was to lie, and for the most part Obama failed to call him on it. Romney essentially disavowed the tax and budget plan he has been running on for eighteen months, claiming that it was possible to cut tax rates and make up the difference by closing loopholes. Obama correctly pointed out that the arithmetic didn’t work. But Obama failed to challenge Romney to identify just which loopholes he would close.

On Social Security and Medicare, Romney gave Obama another opening that the president failed to maximize. Romney said that nobody at or near retirement age needed to fear any changes. The obvious implication is Social Security and Medicare cuts for younger people. Obama had a nice one-liner—"If you are 54 or 55, you might want to pay attention."—but he failed to drive the point home.

On Dodd-Frank, Romney told one whopper after another. He claimed that the law protects banks that are “too big to fail.” What Dodd-Frank actually does it to authorize, for the first time, how to shut down such banks.

For the most part, Obama was operating on Republican territory—he admitted that his health plan was a copy of Romney’s; he was for tax cuts, too; for small business, too; for budget balance, too.

To hear Romney, he would preserve America’s social safety net, not cut taxes on the rich, and make sure that Medicare was preserved for America’s seniors. All this flies in the face of what the Romney campaign claimed for 18 months, but for the most part Obama let Romney off the hook.

This is the Obama we saw in 2009 and 2010—an Obama reluctant to be too partisan or too aggressive, a diffident Obama, above the fray. Romney went for Obama’s throat, and he managed to do so without seeming mean. Obama not only took the assaults, but failed to maximize the several openings that Romney gave him.

Wednesday's debate did serious damage. There are two more to come. If Obama does not pick up his game, he is a one-term president.

Comments

"Romney’s strategy, as it has been throughout the campaign, was to lie..."
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Well, that's certainly fair and balanced.

It is eminently fair. Romney's strategy has been to lie. I fail to see why "balanced" is relevant. If I say the sky is bright yellow and you say it's blue, should the audience seek a balance between us and conclude that it's green?

Romney is no more a liar than Obama. They both have their spin and pollsters and stats and studies that confirm what they already believe. Nothing Romney said was a bold faced lie. If you hold him up to that standard, then Obama is a liar as well. I don't think either of them are liars. Both are politicians.

I don't think the 'they both do it' is going to cut it in this election. McCain didn't resort to so many obvious lies throughout his campaign and neither has Obama - not even in four years of being President. Romney certainly is a liar and it has been shown time and time again. Read some of the fact-checkers sometimes. Read some in the next few days about the several he threw out there tonight. He has made completely contradicting statements - they cannot both be true.

I agree with rDLV. And perhaps my own comment was not clear. For Mr. Kuttner to characterize Romney as a "liar" is beyond the pale. I quoted him to make the point that this entire article is worthless given that premise. Romney won the debate tonight, hands down, not even close, look at the instant polling. Obama better get it together before the next debate if he wants to remain in office.

Romney has clearly lied and did so several times in the debate. Rather than check the polls, you might want to read the fact-check sources who will be explaining most of those in detail. As Obama said regarding Romney's tax proposal, the math does not add up to what Romney is saying. It did sound as if he wanted Congress to take the heat on all the loopholes closing and deductions being taken away. It doesn't make sense. Try the math. He says he 1)won't cut defense 2) won't increase the deficit 3) won't reduce taxes for the wealthiest 4) will cut inheritance tax to zero and I believe cap gains to zero 5) won't cut Medicare (contradiction with the plans we've seen and previous statements) or SS for 10 years or so and this will all be paid for by closing loopholes and limiting deductions (maybe) by (who knows how much? ) $17k to $20k or so --- have we heard this before? No ---- and 6) won't cut education (???) and clearly there are lies in there and I would say more than just one whopper. He's told whoppers before, so he is OK with that. But for you to say he is not a liar? To say that characterizing him as one is 'beyond the pale?' That's just ludicrous.

I've been watching Presidential debates since Gerald Ford/Jimmy Carter. Not once in all those years of Presidential debates have I seen such a blowout. Gov Romney was amazingly good and showed why he should be the next President of the United States. Obama showed why we have had 4 years of UNEMPLOYMENT, DEBT, failure, and showed why his reelection would be a disaster. As good as Gov Romney was, Obama was even worse! Of course I was biased going into the debate so I was shocked when I started switching channels. CNN flash poll 65% Gov Romney won, only 25% Obama. Absolute BLOWOUT! Gov Romney even beat Obama in the poll as likeable 46% TO 45%. The left is beginning to panic! The next few days will be facinating, but tonight the nation saw the next President of the United States of America, Mitt Romney, step up! "If you don't do the job you gotta go"!

I'm just going to make a wild guess that you have been a Romney fan all along. Well, at least since all the other republican primary candidates self-destructed.

I disagree with Mr. Kuttner on several statements. President Obama did, in fact, challenge Romney on the specifics and he did so more than once. He also made very clear the difference in his Medicare plan versus Romney's. I would not say Romney didn't come across as mean. He seemed overly aggressive to me. Obama did stay above the fray and stayed calm in the face of what most of us see are obvious lies and misrepresentations. I doubt 'serious damage' has been done, but time will tell. The media will have a day of spinning Romney's 'win' and then the fact-checker truths will come out. People do not like being lied to and Romney just did that big time. I think that will hurt him more than his hard-liner persona did this evening.

Who is this "most of us" who see Romney's statements as "obvious lies?" How can you possibly make that statement when 67% of the debate viewers that Romney won and only 28% thought Obama won? Your views are your own, and you are not remotely in the majority or the mainstream. As for "fact-checkers," now that's funny. I am fully capable of checking my own facts, doing my own math, using primary sources, free from partisan spin and obfuscation. Face it- your emperor has no clothes, and last night the public finally got to see him as he really is.

You seem to be mixing things up. Romney DID lie, that is a fact. As has been shown by fact checkers. That you think he "won" is a separate issue. As to doing your own fact checking, you fall prey to the same errors as so many others, thinking you're above the brain-based biases we are ALL subject to (and which the process of fact-checking is designed to overcome to some extent) and that groups are less effective in finding the truth than individuals. This is demonstrably untrue.

Mbast1- I understand what you're saying. Perhaps I wasn't clear. My own opinion of the debate is irrelevant (as is yours). I was responding to Crystal's claim that "most people" know that Romney is "obviously lying." I take issue with that statement because I don't understand how someone would consider him the winner of the debate if *they* felt he lied the whole time (and yet "most people" felt strongly that Romney won the debate, by a ratio of almost 3-to-1. ) As for the fact-checker issue, I understand your point there as well, but there's not enough space in this forum to argue over it. Suffice to say that my impression of fact-check organizations is that they are no more free from bias than any individual might be. Whoever wins the election, I am glad the fight has finally been joined. The people will decide. God bless America.

Other than your very last statement I agree, to some extent, with all of this. Romney DID lie, though, and that is a separate issue from him winning the debate. That is an important distinction, because it seems that some people think that if their candidate "wins" they couldn't have been lying.
As to the fact-checkers issue, sure, they're as prone to bias as anyone else, but given that it's a group effort (in that they publish their results, and then others argue with and against it) it's more likely to be closer to the truth than what someone does on their own.

Romney's basic economic argument was that by cutting a whole bunch of taxes, economic growth will follow and that will help pay down the debt. I think he genuinely believes this. Romney, and many conservatives believe that lowering tax rates stimulates the economy. It's not supported by historical evidence, nor is the Obama claim that raising tax rates increases tax revenues. Both guys were pretty much arguing liberal vs conservative economic dogma. Neither guy stated the fact that tax rates don't determine tax revenues or economic growth. Of course, the debate format doesn't lend itself to nuanced discussions about the economy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvTIphPnDM8

Let's face it. Obama cannot assault or severely criticize Republican Party politics or Romney as, say, a Jill Stein of the GREEN PARTY did.
Ms. Stein said this in response during the debate that night (see Democracynow.org): “If you had 100 people in the room and 100 loaves of bread, the way the bread would be distributed is one person would have 40 loaves of bread and the lower 50, half the population, would have one loaf of bread. THAT is how our economy is working right now. This trickle down idea, bailing out banks, will NOT get us out of this recession. It IS the problem.” This is what is missing: contrarian opinion, “other side of the coin”, “fresh air”, “options”. Arguments have two sides, don’t they?
The Corporate Democrats are bed with the Corporate Republicans. How can they criticize each other? They can’t. Remember Kerry “debating” Bush THE CRIMINAL in 2004? Ouch! “Birds of a Feather Flock Together”. We deserve what we get.

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