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One candidate exceeds expectations: Romney

News analysis: While the challenger did well, President Obama barely landed a punch.

The debate tonight at the University of Denver seemed a lot like a “working meeting.” Jim Lehrer guided the discussion with a professorial air. The chairs in the constricted hockey arena were red and the background was a blue hue with an eagle and the preamble to the constitution. It almost seemed like the set for Stephen Colbert.

The debate, however, was anything but funny. Both candidates were serious and substantive. But the clear winner of the debate was Mitt Romney. He was on the smiling attack most of the night, his red tie contrasting to the blue background while the president seemed irritated and only forced a few smiles through the entire event.

But what about the substance of the discussion?

Mitt Romney quickly attacked Obama as a purveyor of “trickle down government,” a phrase that surely brought a smile to deceased Reagan publicity man Michael Deaver. Romney continued the attack all evening by bringing up Vice President Joe Biden’s line that the middle class has been crushed these last four years. He even denied that he would cut taxes on the wealthy and that his plan was to lower all tax rates, close loopholes, and bring more money in for the government.

And try as he might, Obama was unsuccessful in making the point that a $5 trillion tax cut, coupled with $2 trillion more spending for the military, would lead to higher taxes and lost services for the middle class. The fact that Romney was able to convincingly deny that this was his plan, even though it has been out there for a while, appeared to frustrate Obama to the point that he channeled Bill Clinton and said, “It’s math! It’s arithmetic!”

But Romney continued to be firm in his statements that his plan is not to add to the deficit. Now, where have we heard that before?

The rest of the discussion focused on health care , the debt, education, and the role of government. Again, Lehrer’s professorial control and moderation made the debate collegiate and somewhat less presidential than what we’re used to. It was refreshing.

The biggest failings for Obama in the debate: He referred to the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare. He needs to stop doing that. He also appeared aloof and somewhat uninterested in the proceedings. His energy was clearly lacking. And, finally, in his closing statement he referred to the American people as “them” and “their” concerns while Romney referred to “your’ concerns. This may seem like a small thing but people hear it.

The biggest failings for Romney will likely come to light after the debate. It would seem that he altered his economic agenda during the debate. He still has not offered specifics on how he can cut taxes, increase military spending, and cut the deficit. Also, the Paul Ryan plan for Medicare is a non-starter and Romney appears to know that it is a liability politically. How long will it take for him to modify it? Probably two weeks.

But hand it to Romney. Obama didn’t land a punch. There was no reference to the 47 percent and Romney was on the offensive all night. He had more energy and seemed to be the more positive and forward-looking candidate on this night amid the blues and reds and patriotism.

Jordan Royer currently works for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents marine terminal operators and container vessels that serve the West Coast. He previously worked on public safety issues in the Paul Schell and Greg Nickels mayoral administrations. He is a board member of the Manufacturing Industrial Council. He also served on Mayor Ed Murray’s Transition Team and works with the Mayor’s office on maritime and manufacturing industrial policy. You can reach him in care of editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Oct 3, 10:55 p.m. Inappropriate


Jordan Royer's piece is pretty much a substance-free analysis of the debate. Below is what the NY Times fact check says about Romney's denial that he proposed a $5 trillion tax cut. BTW, Jordan, I and other viewers thought it was charming and winning and funny when Obama embraced the moniker Obamacare. He's explained before that he likes it because he does care. And I thought Obama landed plenty of effective punches, on Medicare, tax cuts, Romney's lack of policy detail, etc. I totally disagree with this assessment.
http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/debates/presidential/2012-10-03#fact-checks
It is true that Mr. Romney has proposed “revenue neutral” tax reform, meaning that he would not expand the deficit. However, he has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion.
To make up that revenue, Mr. Romney has said he wants to clear out the underbrush of deductions and loopholes in the tax code. But he has not yet specified how he would do so, opening himself to persistent Democratic attacks.
This week, in an interview with a Colorado television station, Mr. Romney did shed some light – floating the idea of capping each household’s deductions at $17,000.
“As an option, you could say everybody’s going to get up to a $17,000 deduction. And you could use your charitable deduction, your home mortgage deduction, or others, your health care deduction, and you can fill that bucket, if you will, that $17,000 bucket that way,” he said. “Higher-income people might have a lower number.”
The deduction cap has the virtue of avoiding the tough negotiations over which tax expenditures to unwind. Many tax expenditures are highly popular, like the deduction for charitable giving. Moreover, many are important to the stability of the economy. Suddenly ending the home mortgage interest deduction, for instance, would threaten destabilizing the housing market.
But a number of unanswered questions about Mr. Romney’s tax plan remain.
For instance, Mr. Romney did not address how his proposed cap on deductions would affect tax credits. (Generally, deductions lower a given family’s level of taxable income and credits erase part of their overall tax bill.)
It is also unclear whether his proposal to cap deductions would raise enough revenue to pay for his income tax rate cuts – at least not without increasing the tax burden on families making less than $200,000 a year, which Mr. Romney has vowed that he will not do.

Posted Thu, Oct 4, 9:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Harris -- I am in agreement with you on the substance. This is why I support Obama for re-election, just as I did the first time around. My assessment was simply about who won the debate. Clearly Romney did better. An old friend, Kurt Streeter, who writes for the LA Times put it best on his Facebook page: "the mild Obama who showed up tonight was the Obama the left has little passion for and the right absolutely despises. Depresses one base, fires up another. One clear winner tonight. game on."

I still believe Obama will win simply because the facts will come out and people don't want to go back to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place. But Obama needs to communicate that much better and speak directly to the people.

Jordan

Posted Thu, Oct 4, 1:24 p.m. Inappropriate

I've always wondered what "the policies that got us into this mess" actually were. After all, the housing bubble was largely a result of pressure from Barney Frank and others in Congress applied to the banks to write mortgages to more and more people who could not afford them, or face congressional retribution. The banks wrote the mortgages, the people who had them couldn't pay, and the retribution comes anyway in the form of Dodd-Frank. So, to use a phrase quite popular today, we seem to be "doubling down" on the policies that got us into this mess, not abandoning them.


And one thing is certain. The President's policies are keeping us in this mess. He keeps talking about how here's "digging out of this hole." But when you're in a hole, you stop digging. Freudian slip?

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Oct 5, 6:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Jordan. I have to disagree, although I will admit I missed the first 25 minutes. I thought Obama was calm, cool and collected, as well as patient. Romney looked like a school yard bully, interrupting President Obama as well as the moderator.

He did put forward a bunch of numbers but they were for the most part... LIES. And rather than Obama calling Romney a liar.. always a losing proposition on TV, he just sucked it up and ignored it, letting the fact checking take place after the debates.

And from your article:
"He (Romney) still has not offered specifics on how he can cut taxes, increase military spending, and cut the deficit."

You want the short answer... HE CAN'T. This is a LIE. Call it for what it is. This is a triple-pronged message point that satisfies the Conservatives (cut taxes), the Hawks (increase military spending) and the Tea Party (cut the deficit). It's a trifecta, all in one sentence.!!!!

But in the end, it is what it is. A LIE.

Only in American politics can the candidates that tells the biggest and most numerous lies be referred to as 'the clear winner'.

Posted Thu, Oct 4, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Romney doesn't have a tax plan to offer a country with trillion dollar deficits, based in the idea that we can get there by closing tax loopholes and allowing private business to grow the economy. Romney says trust the private insurance/healthcare industry to provide better and less expensive health insurance. Etc. He smiles and avoids saying something stupid - merely vague, illogical, and inconsistent with past comments- and he "wins" this debate? I like politics as a spectator sport as much as the next guy, but come on. Thanks, Harris, for some critical analysis.

Posted Thu, Oct 4, 1:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Once again, the only balance on Crosscut is written by a die hard Obama supporter. New publisher,same unbalanced drivel. Obama's polices are not working, his numbers do not add up, but you will never see it on Crosscut.

Cameron

Posted Thu, Oct 4, 3:36 p.m. Inappropriate

dbreneman, the claim that the sub-prime mortgage crisis resulted from federal policy to encourage home-ownership, while appealing to the Rush Limbaugh crowd, is true only if you want it to be. A report by the Federal Reserve Bank refutes the claim that affordable housing mandates were responsible for the risk-taking behavior of FNMA and FHMLC. The private label mortgage backed securities Fannie and Freddie, along with other investors, bought fueled demand for mortgages and separated borrower from investor to the point normal mortgage security was overlooked and irrelevant. The argument that is was greed-driven is more compelling.

Posted Fri, Oct 5, 2:53 p.m. Inappropriate

"Federal Reserve Bank refutes the claim that affordable housing mandates were responsible for the risk-taking behavior of FNMA and FHMLC. The private label mortgage backed securities Fannie and Freddie, along with other investors, bought fueled demand for mortgages and separated borrower from investor to the point normal mortgage security was overlooked and irrelevant."

The great recession was undoubtedly greed-driven. However, only the independent minded are wilingl to include all the greed-driven parties. Non-neo liberal Matt Tabbi's case for Alan Greenspan being the "biggest A-hole in the Universe" is a notable exception. Tabbi otherwise leaves little doubt that he is partisan: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/this-presidential-race-should-never-have-been-this-close-20120925

afreeman

Posted Fri, Oct 5, 8:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Unfortunately, most Americans don't seem to be interested in facts. Romney knows that, and that's why he has gotten away with not saying anything substantice (usually) and lying (always). He simply sounds definite, and that makes him appear in charge. People want their leaders to be in charge. Obama had better start sounding that way in the debates, and talking about the good stuff he's done, not just the bad stuff Romney will do.

sarah90

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