On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts carried out their second presidential debate. This debate was “town hall” style, which means the questions were chosen by 82 uncommitted voters and asked to the presidential candidates by the voters themselves. A wide variety of topics were covered, from the sluggish economy to each candidate’s position on fuel.
Unlike the last debate, Obama came out in full force, directly attacking Romney throughout the debate on his five-point plan and his fuel proposals. Romney, rather than defend himself, retorted with like-minded attacks, blaming Obama’s administration for the economic slump and the high unemployment rate. Boise State Political Science Professor Ross Burkhart, Ph.D. said, in an e-mail, “Governor Romney effectively critiqued the economic difficulties of the US over the past four years, implying that under a second Obama Administration there would be more of the same mediocre economic performance.” But, despite pointing out the flaws with Obama’s administration, many people are still arguing about who came out ahead once the debate was over.
Kaitlyn Holstad, a freshman linguistics major, believes Obama took the lead, saying Romney handled the debate “poorly.”
“I didn’t really like that he was kind of in Obama’s face. He stopped the debate to ask questions and he would get off topic so much,” Holstad said.
There is no doubt at times debate moderator Candy Crowley had a hard time maintaining control with both candidates preferring to attack each other’s proposals in their answers rather than explain their own.
As Obama said, in relation to Romney’s tax proposal, “Governor Romney says he has a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.”
Romney later negated this, saying “I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they are paying now. The top five percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects, so that will stay the same.”
When asked about the high unemployment rate in the country, Romney blamed the 7.8 percent unemployment rate on the policies Obama has instituted over the past four years, saying “We have fewer people working today than when the president took office. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took office. It’s 7.8 percent now, but if you calculated that unemployment rate taking back all the people who have dropped out of the work force, it would be 10.7 percent.”
Obama retorted by saying the proposals Romney has are the same proposals that have gotten our job market into such a bad place over the last decade.
The debate then turned to the energy crisis and the high cost of fuel.
Obama offered no explanations for the cost, but went on to explain his interests were the economic future of the country, “That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we’ve doubled clean energy production like wind and solar and bio-fuels.”
While agreeing that renewable resources are very important, Romney also contended “what we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas.”
He said EPA policies and regulations have even harmed the country by making it almost impossible to mine for coal. Romney stressed the importance of thinking toward the future, but also on taking advantages of the resources America has now. Romney even went out in the open, blaming Obama for cutting oil drilling on federal lands, so Obama offered an explanation.
“You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we (the Obama administration) said was, you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s more profitable for you. These are public lands. So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it,” Obama said.
The next question was about the candidates’ focus on tax cuts and credits. Romney stated he wanted to “simplify the tax-code and to get middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes.” He then went on to explain the reason he wanted to lower taxes specifically for the middle-income taxpayers was because, “middle-income taxpayers have been buried over the last four years.” He explained heavily that he in no way wants to lower the taxes for the top five percent income taxpayers in the country. Obama’s proposal was slightly different; he says the only tax increases will only come to people who make over $250,000 dollars a year, about two percent of the country. He then claimed he is ready to sign the bill, the only thing stopping it is “Governor Romney’s allies in Congress have held the (other) 98 percent hostage because they want tax breaks for the two percent.”
When asked about the immigration system, Romney responded by explaining he welcomes legal immigrants to this country, but “there are four million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally.”
“They both handled the debate well, I felt Romney showed a little more respect in some ways,” JJ Rasmussen, a freshman geoscience major said when asked about the candidate’s performance, “I just felt like, when Obama was talking, he was showing his points, but also in every sentence was blaming someone. It was never his fault until one time.”
The “one time” was the heated question about who should take responsibility about not upping the defense at the Libyan embassy prior to terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of four American diplomats. Candy Crowley stated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took full responsibility, but Obama came forward, taking the blame himself since “I’m the president, and I’m always responsible.” This didn’t hamper Obama in any way, in fact, it appeared to help him. Burkhart said, in his e-mail, “President Obama was able to craft a response to the recent tragic events in Libya that allowed him to look more presidential than did Governor Romney, who appeared to be confused.”
Overall, it is still much “up in the air” as to who won the debate.
The general consensus is that they should have spent more time answering questions about their own policies, rather than breaking down and attacking each other’s.
The third and last presidential debate will be held Monday, Oct. 22, the topic under discussion being foreign policy.