I’ve written on all the Republican primary debates, so I might as well do the presidential ones.
October 3, in Denver, Jim Lehrer presiding. The subject was domestic issues. For the first time, I liked the format: six very general questions to be asked the whole evening of 90 minutes, Lehrer acting more as a timekeeper than anyone else. For once, the moderator didn’t ask loaded questions designed to embarrass one candidate or give the other guy an easy ride.
I took notes, but anything I report they said is necessarily paraphrased – my version, which only gives a general idea of some of what was said.
The first question was on their differences on creating jobs. The second, differences on the deficit. Third, differences on entitlement reform. Fourth, differences on federal regulation. Fifth, entitlements, and finally, what would they do as president to resolve partisan gridlock.
The discussion was polite, at times friendly, but neither man pulled punches. Both cited statistics and provided detail. There were no major gaffes, as far as I know. I don’t believe there were any memorable lines, although Romney addressed Obama’s investment in renewable energy something like: “You don’t pick winners and losers, you just pick losers.” I may have gotten this wrong, but it’s the general idea.
Obama kept telling Romney about his (Romney’s) plans, such as “you plan to raise taxes by 5 trillion dollars”. Romney repeatedly came back and said that was inaccurate, and said what his plans really were. These exchanges made Obama look bad, I believe.
When they talked about health care, Obama struggled. Romney never did, looked presidential, and looked right at Obama when he spoke. Obama looked at the camera when he spoke, and looked down a lot when Romney was speaking.
I can’t cover much of what was said. Here are some selected tidbits from my notes:
O – 4 years ago, I inherited a big depression; much work to do; we need a “new economic patriotism”. (That last means people must be willing to pay more in taxes.)
R – Need a different path, balanced budget, energy independence. The president wants a “trickle down government.”
O – Mentioned need to improve education. He began a program called “Race to the Top”. Wants to hire 100,000 math and science teachers. He would cut tax on business, he said.
R – described O’s economic record. Said he would not do a tax cut that adds to the deficit.
O – claims to have cut taxes on middle class by $3600 per family. Said R wants to cut taxes by 5 trillion dollars (over 10 years?) and the only way this could be done is by raising taxes on the middle class.
and so on.
R – there are 3 ways to cut the deficit: raise taxes, cut spending, or grow the economy. He’ll cut spending and grow the economy. His criteria for federal program is: will we have to borrow money from China to pay for it? He’ll cut the size of government by attrition.
O – claims to have cut 18 govt. programs, went after Medicare fraud. Claims to have a 4 Trillion dollar debt reduction plan – that requires tax increases.
R – Spain spends 42% of GDP on government, we’re approaching that.
O – brought up subsidies to oil companies, about 5 billion/year. He said budgets reflect choices. Medicaid block grants to states would be a 30% cut.
R – You subsidized green energy by 90 billion/year, 15 times the oil companies. He dropped the “you just pick losers” line. He said the Medicaid block grants would be what each state got last year plus 1 per cent. He said the governors would be delighted.
O – said his and R’s policies on Social Security are similar. He said his Medicare savings would come from cutting overpayments to insurance companies and providers – hospitals and doctors.
R – said O will cut 716 billion (over 10 years? Dammit, they never mention the time frame), and cutting payments to hospitals and doctors would make them drop Medicare patients.
There was a lot of further discussion on Medicare. O – didn’t like Ryan’s voucher program for Medicare (insurance payment subsidy).
R – regulations are necessary, but can be excessive. Cited problems with Dodd-Frank. It makes some banks too big to fail, kills smaller banks.
Obama defended, said R didn’t have details on his plans. R – attacked, said he’d repeal it but keep some of the features. O struggled here, didn’t do well.
Role of Government:
O – keep people safe; create framework where people can succeed.
O – hit a homerun here; said it was to follow the constitution.
R – as governor, I had a legislature which was 87% Democrat, yet succeeded.
O – I will take ideas from anyone (and ignore them).
Obama didn’t mention Bain Capital or Romney’s 47% remark. Romney didn’t seize on any of Obama’s gaffes or lack of producing credible budgets.
Overall, Romney won. Some liberal talking heads conceded that and were angry about it, thinking Obama didn’t make his case. So, Obama took strike one, as Romney did a superb job. However, there are two debates left. Obama likely will be tougher in the next two, and he’d better be. If Romney dominates the second debate, I believe he will win the election.