Obama and Romney Delve into the Details

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Mitt Romney speaks during a debate with Pres. Barack Obama in 2012. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages)

Americans demanded details and, boy, did they get them.

In their first debate, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney delved into dense discussions on taxes, health care, entitlement programs and more. Each candidate unleashed a flurry of statistics and complex equations for bringing down the debt. And they tossed around references to policy proposals like "Simpson-Bowles" and laws like "Dodd-Frank" that are hard to understand for many Washington insiders, let alone average voters.

"It's fun, isn't it?" Romney, a successful businessman, interjected at one point.

The wonkish policy debate was a stark contrast to the monthslong campaign, filled with broad-brush and harsh attacks by the two candidates on one another. And it was a clear appeal to the small sliver of undecided voters, both independents and unaffected voters in each party, who are less partisan and more interested in hearing solutions.

Romney, a successful businessman, seemed to relish the down-in-the-weeds debate.

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, was willing to play along. But his long, detailed answers may have fulfilled his campaign adviser's biggest fears. They had spent weeks working on winnowing down the president's answers, only to watch him revert to the long-winded answers that they believe don't always connect with the public.

The audience in the debate hall was silent, shrouded in darkness. Their only audible response to either candidate was a quick smattering of applause when Obama opened the debate by wishing wife, Michelle, a happy 20th anniversary, which fell on the same night of the debate.

At times, moderator Jim Lehrer seemed to struggle to keep control of the conversation. So Romney tried to take over for him.

"Right, right - but -but," Romney said as Lehrer was competing to speak. And then the GOP nominee got in a retort to Obama: "Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate."

Some of Romney's confidence may have come from the fact that many of the detailed points he made on the debate stage have long been a part of his regular campaign speeches. While his fluency on complex economic issues may not always translate with voters on the campaign trail expecting a rousing speech, it gave him an opportunity to look confident standing toe-to-toe with the president.


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Comments [13]

RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

I watched the entire debate. I wasn't ecstatic over the President's performance but I wasn't that disappointed either. He appeared prepared, respectful and firm - not argumentative. Somewhat defensive, but not too much so.

Romney appeared a little antic maybe even amped. More passionate, sure, but also more willing to tell the audience what he thought they wanted to hear. "I would never give a tax cut that increases the deficit." Sure you wouldn't.

Why is all of the debate criticism concerned with how the candidates looked rather than the truth of what they said. It's not the President's job to smack down Romney on his numerous falsehoods. That is what responsible journalists do. Are there any left? If the journalists don't do it, the voters need to do it for themselves.

Oct. 07 2012 11:06 AM

The good news is that we have two more chances to hear the debate exercise. What concerns me is how "election day" has become a floating month long exercise so Americans are not voting with the same information at the same time and day. This is horrid and not what our soldiers are dieing for....the disrespect of the election process where a football game or social event is all important but the hiring of our government is ranked as unimportant. We have always had absentee voting, but to make it where more than half an entire state votes outside that day is a mockery to the process.

Oct. 04 2012 03:15 PM
Silvia from Hastings on Hudson

Although I intend to cast my vote for Obama, the fact that he seemed an inarticulate advocate for the policies he has championed caused me significant concern as I consider how he makes difficult decisions when he is surrounded by advisers with differing opinions in the Oval Office. He appeared somewhat weak in being unable to defend his stances.

Oct. 04 2012 10:20 AM
Nicole from NYC

Every politician can SAY that their tax cuts won't add to the deficit. Or that their spending won't add to the deficit, like Romney's new military spending. However, if they are not at all clear about how they would pay for it, it seems like we could agree that the money is not there.

Oct. 04 2012 10:13 AM

I see comments about one person's body language and too often they ignore the body language of the opponent who may be their fav. To have one candidate bouncing merrily on his legs does not mean he is a bad person, nor does the notion that one candidate looks dejected mean he is a bad person, but in any review there should be balance about each's behavior. The moderator is being criticized for his free form style and yet he did at least once for EACH OF THEM say they were overrunning their time. The moderator may not have done the debate the way you would have liked, but the information was allowed to flow in an orderly process. If he was too rigid, someone would have also criticized him on that level. He did fine, albeit differently than most "time keepers". When I do such timing in meetings I run, I use a big clock with a second hand so as to be absolutely fair for all concerned....but I could be criticized for that strict approach also by folks not involved in the process and only as an audience. The debate was fine and informative. I also learned that I am out of touch with certain legislative acts named for their authors, as the two debaters were very much into the finepoints of that arena.

Oct. 04 2012 10:08 AM
Mike Finegan from Clifton, New Jersey

I watched the debate, am I missing something? Neither candidate delved into the issues; they danced around them. Both Romney and Obama used popular catch phrases such as tax cuts, middle class, bring down the debt and blaming China for our problems; yet no concrete solutions to the problems. Again, this is more of the same double talk we've heard in previous elections. The system is broken and neither candidate is willing to fix it. Americans deserve better than this staged production to win votes.

Oct. 04 2012 10:07 AM
Judith Baum from New York, NY

I am appalled that so many praise Romney for his agressive manner - designating him as a winner because of that. I saw a rude, bully who overrode the time limits, interrupted both the President and Jim Lehrer and smirked after his statements. He was so excited to be making points that he bounced on his heels while delivering the closing statement. Sure, the president could have been more forceful, but he is and always has presented himself as a reasonable man, not a bully.

Oct. 04 2012 09:47 AM

I think that Obama could have been better in calling out Mittens' on his inaccurate statements. However, for someone like me who pays attention to what Romney says, this debate has done NOTHING for Mittens. However, those people who are clueless about politics could think he is the guy they want because he seems aggressive. I for one, the last thing I want, is another Reagan-military-spending-loving President like Mittens. We DO NOT want more CONFLICT, WAR, MILITARY spending!!!!

Oct. 04 2012 09:16 AM

I agree that Obama should have been more AGGRESSIVE, but he has been called "angry" and he is obviously not that. If anything, he was polite, unlike someone else there. However, I also think the moderator was horrible!! Jim Lehrer was being interrupted and told to wait by Romney every time he did not like what Obama was saying. Anyways, Obama should have been as rude as Romney because that is the only way he will shut him up.

Oct. 04 2012 09:10 AM
Fran from New york

Just heard your bbc reporter say something on wnyc about obama mostly looking into the camera in a lecturing type manner. Obama to my consternation rarely looked directly into the camera. The media is to blame for this ridiculous election. They just propagate the party line without taking care to give the people real information. Please get your facts straight before you spout them on the radio.

Oct. 04 2012 09:09 AM
regis from NJ

I was the one who said on the air to not fall in love with the debate victor because we are looking for a good leader to hire to run our country. However, last night we saw a person who addressed the points offered by his rival logically as he was paying attention to the event. Someone who listens to the words being offered is the sign of a good leader. So, on the substance of a person who can help this country out of a deep bind economically, politically, and sadly militaristically in this dangerous world, Romney seemed impressive at the job interview!!!

Oct. 04 2012 08:52 AM
john from office

Jim Lehrer, was awful. He did not moderate he slept through this debate.

What is the point of having rules if you let people go on and on. Also, where were the questions//, he basically fed both men talking points and let them speak.

Not a good show.

Oct. 04 2012 08:13 AM
mercedes from cortandt manor

I didn't see it all--not out of lack o interest--but I was disappointed. The presence of Romney certainly seemed to overshadow that of Obama--and I have a great deal of confidence in Obama and really like Jim Lehrer. However, I really want to know who spent time grooming and trimming Romney's responses so that they seemed to just edge out their usual seemingly out-of-touch timbre and. quite frankly, the reverse of what he thought while in Massachusetts. The subtle spin was brilliant. However, I do believe that both do not have informed people coaching them on the real lissues in health care, Obama was right, but didn't go far enough. The filled emergency rooms do eat up hospital revenues. Hospital (iatrogenic) complications because hospitals not paying attention to standards of care, outcomes (short as well as long term) and really taking care of the patient, eat up health care monies AND patients (the real payors) suffer4 in the meantime. Yikes! Where is everybody's head?

Oct. 04 2012 07:23 AM

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