Obama's missed debate opportunities against Romney may cost him (+video)
Though many have declared the night a 'win' for President Obama in his second presidential debate against Mitt Romney, he let several key opportunities to call Romney on the carpet go by. Think: capital gains tax rates and 'binders full of women.' Democrats still have reason to worry.
President Obama had a tough assignment for Tuesday night’s presidential debate. He had to repair the self-inflicted damage he did with his pathetic performance in the first debate, energize the Democratic base with aggressive attacks on Mitt Romney and a sharp defense of his record, but not alienate the sliver of undecided voters in swing states who will decide the presidency. And he had to do this in a town hall format, where direct attack on your opponent is a little more challenging.Skip to next paragraph
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By contrast, all Mr. Romney had to do was avoid gaffes and keep up his reasoned critique of the Obama presidency.
While Mr. Obama did far better this time, the second presidential debate showed that Democrats still have reason to be worried, about this election and about their candidate. Democrats have to face facts – Obama seems to be temperamentally unsuited to modern political debate. He doesn’t exploit sudden opportunities and has trouble linking a line of questioning to a known Romney vulnerability.
Is this because he is the “no drama Obama” to his core, an inherently cautious man who looks for compromise and common ground by nature? Or is he just someone who doesn’t have much knack for biting repartee? Or is his penchant for measured civility what keeps his “likability” numbers consistently higher than Romney’s in the polls? We may never know; all we can say is the president let several opportunities go by, in both debates.
That’s not to say that Obama lacks talent as a politician. He’s a masterful speaker, a capable tactician, possesses a remarkable mind and memory, and clearly is a calm and cool leader. But debates uniquely show his weakness.
When the topic of taxes comes up, and you’re standing next to Mitt Romney, you bring up his tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, his Swiss bank accounts, and you link that to his refusal to release his tax records.
Obama should have pushed Romney on why he asked Paul Ryan to show more tax returns than he himself will disclose to the voters. “What are you hiding, Governor, and will you promise tonight to release at least a few more years, so America knows if your money has been where your mouth has been tonight?”
This hones in on the essential differences that separate Romney from much of the “middle income folks” he says he wants to help.
Sure, Obama, did note “the fact that [Romney] only has to pay 14 percent on his taxes when a lot of you are paying much higher.” But when Romney talked about helping the middle class by keeping capital gain taxes low, why didn’t Obama laugh gently and point out that for most middle class Americans, capital gains are a trivial part of their taxes.
Those weren’t fish in a barrel. Those were whales in a Dixie cup.
Obama had moments of good offense, and some of them scored him points. By far the best was his impassioned defense of his administration’s response to the deaths in Benghazi, and his effective portrayal of Romney’s response as shallow political hackery. And Obama did, finally, bring up Romney’s ugly comments implying that 47 percent of Americans were lazy moochers. It was an obvious rebuttal to the low-hanging fruit Romney left him with his “I want 100 percent of America to have a bright and prosperous future” comment.