by Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory and Washington consultant Jim Wiesemeyer
The first head-to-head debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney is over and Obama lost.
Obama was way off his game. After a less-than-inspiring opening comment from Obama that gave the impression he was surprised the debate was starting, Romney delivered the first blow of the night in his rebuttal with a detailed, five-step plan to fix the economy.
That set the tone for the entire 90 minutes: Romney on offense; Obama in prevent-defense.
No one says Romney delivered a knock-out, but virtually all unbiased observers (and many left-leaning analysts) gave him the edge over President Obama.
The reason we’re calling it an “Obama loss” rather than a “Romney win” is because Obama is a much better communicator than what an estimated 67 million people saw last week. Romney was well prepared for the first of three debates, but he’d better be even better prepared for the next. Obama will be better in round two.
Polls confirm Romney domination —
Among uncommitted voters, 46% said Romney won the debate, versus 22% who said the same of President Obama, according to an online poll of 523 uncommitted voters conducted after the debate by CBS News.
A CNN telephone survey of 430 registered voters who were questioned after watching the contest handed an even more decisive victory to Romney: 67% said he won the debate, compared to only 25% who said Obama won.
The CBS poll also showed Romney made clear strides in improving his likability: 56% of those surveyed said their opinions of him had changed for the better. At just 30% ahead of the debate, the number of uncommitted voters who said Romney “cares about their needs and problems” rose to 63% after the debate. But Obama still has the lead in this question. According to the poll, 69% of respondents said Obama cares about their needs and problems, up from 53% before the debate.
A new ‘trickle-down’ —
One of the messages Romney stuck with throughout the debate was the lack of economic improvement during the past four years. While Obama spoke in the abstract, Romney scored points by illustrating his disappointment with examples and personal stories.
Romney scored with the business sector when he said, “The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more — if you will, trickle-down government — would work.”
A surprising move to the middle —
In the first term of former President Bill Clinton, he inched away from the left-leaning tone that got him elected to a more moderate (but still liberal-leaning) position. He negotiated. He led. He compromised.
We suspected President Obama would follow a similar path to reelection, but we haven’t seen any move to moderation. He hasn’t negotiated. He hasn’t led. He hasn’t compromised.
When Romney debated other Republican hopefuls and through the party’s convention, he gave no indication he’d be willing to negotiate or compromise with Democrats in Congress. But during the debate, Romney sounded moderate. He made comments that suggest he’d be willing to negotiate, potentially compromise and that he’d lead Congress through the steps necessary to encourage an economic recovery. Frankly, he sounded more presidential than Obama. Perhaps this is what surprised viewers the most. (Including us, and, apparently, President Obama.)
Along with economy, tax plans capture attention —
While Obama charged that Romney’s tax plan would deliver a $5-trillion tax cut for the wealthy and spend another $2 trillion on defense that the military has not asked for, Romney simply assured viewers that was not the case and that he would not lower taxes on wealthy Americans. He also stressed the middle class would see tax cuts under his plan. One of Romney’s highest-scoring moments in the debate was when he said, “Let me repeat what I said. I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not my plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit.”
Health care reform —
Even when talking health care, Romney stayed on his economic message: “I just don’t know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table and (he) spent his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people.”
Obama said Romney has promised to repeal Obamacare on his first day in office, but now wants to keep some of its provisions (protections for patients with preexisting conditions and the rights of young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans).
Obama added his law was modeled heavily on the health-care law that Romney championed when he was governor of Massachusetts. Romney defended his plan in Massachusetts, saying his plan passed with Democratic support, unlike the near single-party approach that passed Obamacare.
Romney also scored points with the states’-rights crowd when he countered that health care issues are better handled at the state level.
There’s more... A LOT more —
Jim's complete analysis of the debate is available here.