Obama: 3 Romney: 1
Scoreboard rules: To score a point on my board, a candidate must make a good point or counterpoint. A point will also be awarded if the opponent makes a stumble on their own. I base this not on me agreeing with either, but what is perceived as greater moments
Before the debate:
What Romney must do: The best Romney can hope to do tonight is remain standing. There are limited opportunities for him to really strike Obama off-balance, he needs to lure Obama into coming off as arrogant or out of touch. Romney himself is at risk for that much more, as he willingly walked into a lot of not-so-high moments in the primary debates. But these debates will be much more tight-knit and carefully coordinated than the numerous primary debates, and I don’t think there will be many off the cuff moments that will hurt him as much as his “47% comments”. To put himself back in the running for this race, he needs to have a stunning performance, which means he will be making hard, aggressive attacks at the president.
What Obama must do: Obama must talk about his accomplishments. He actually has them. Obama must talk about what he inherited despite some people thinking that as the blame Bush strategy. He must be relaxed and not to aggressive, yet firm, because he is going into this with the advantage.
The arguments for both candidates must aim to be crisp and concise, simple enough to appeal to the people who do not usually watch these events. The slightest error tonight from either candidate will be played as a sound byte over and over for the next week, and it is their goal tonight is to manipulate that into a high ground advantage for campaign ads. Sound bytes are crucial to the few undecided voters who will hear these over and over on the news.
The most significant part early on the debate was tax policy. Romney actually made the case that he was not reducing the tax burden on wealthier Americans by way of closing their loopholes and deductions along with rates, I thought Obama did a very good job hitting him on the false math of that plan (one point). The most notable thing I saw in this section was when Romney said “my plan is something we have not tried before”, which most Republicans would disagree with themselves.
The second session had more tax policy combined with deficits. The best point made was by Obama on Romney’s pledge during the primaries to cut 10 dollars for every dollar raised, which Obama used to explain rational deficit cutting (one point). When medicare was brought up, specifically Romney accusing Obama of 716 billion in cuts to it, I was shocked to not see Obama point out these were the same savings put out by the Ryan plan. Romney’s best moment was when he clearly laid out his view of regulation (one point). He said up front why he likes good regulation rather than talking immediately about Dodd-Frank or Obama’s fault, which to impress voters is more effective.
Romney in the next session on Healthcare accused Obama of wasting 2 years of political capital on Healthcare rather than jobs. Obama should have been able to say how healthcare consumes 1 out of every 5 of our dollars, which has an incredible tie to the economy. Obama also did not mention anything about the intense gridlock from Republicans against any progress in the bill. I thought Obama scored a big hit talking about how Obamacare was originally a Republican idea as early as 5 years ago until he was elected, and pointing the heavy similarity of their plans (one point).
Obama: Overall I thought Obama was amazingly timid and held back. There were so many moments where he could have dominated by pressing harder but didn’t, and I think it was a calculated defensive approach to neutralize what might be viewed as a too combative or whiny by blaming congressional leaders or making too aggressive hits on Romney. So did Obama do what he needed to? No. He did not take advantage of Romney’s misplays and failed to capitalize on making Romney’s vagueness. But he did manage a few hits on Healthcare and taxes. He was funny and made a couple good quipped one liners (Donald Trump) that made him seem on footing.
Romney: Romney held his own. He did not make any huge mistakes other than what I saw as obvious evasions of sorely needed specifics or some really hazy facts. He did not catch Obama off guard or lure him into position enough to make a defining moment, and he needed that to start making polls shift radically enough to make a difference in the election.
Jim Lehrer did a fair job I think by trying to get the candidates to highlight differences between the themselves, but failed to pursue Romney on his vague policy ideas, which ultimately played to Romney’s advantage by letting him evade those specifics which he knows he does not have. He needed to be take control more, but overall wanted the discourse to play out rather than him being the headline maker.
Obama won this debate on the actual substance. What has been making the pundits go crazy is that because Obama did not make a strong push, Romney looked at lot better than he actually did. Anyone who thinks Romney won this is kidding themselves. He made no strong push, and did an average job to give himself credible standing in further debates. Obama mentioned Paul Ryan several times, laying the groundwork for next weeks Vice Presidential debate, where I have no doubt that Biden will be much more aggressive, and Ryan will be much less afraid of policy talk.
Obama: 3 Romney: 1