PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE # 1

Prior to last night’s debate, virtually all analysts, and even his own supporters, agreed that it was critical that Mr. Romney win or, at least, give a strong performance.  He was losing in most polls, including in the battleground states.  In addition, donors were getting nervous, and some of the other GOP candidates running for election were reportedly having misgivings about his perceived weakness at the top of the ticket impacting their own candidacy.

Following the debate most observers, even many Democrat-leaning analysts, agreed that Mr. Romney had won.  A CNN poll taken right after the debate ended found that 67% of the respondents thought Mr. Romney had won versus 25% for President Obama.  Fox News polled a Focus Group of uncommitted voters who had watched the debate in isolation with a Fox analyst.  Following the debate, over 80% of them said, based on Mr. Romney’s performance they would now vote for him.  His campaign contributions should increase dramatically.  He needs it as he is currently being outspent in the battleground states by 2:1.  Mr. Romney may have saved his candidacy, at least temporarily.

Mr. Romney was forceful without being disrespectful and was on top of the facts.  President Obama seemed distracted and, in general, not at his best.  I expect he will do better next time.  Often, in Presidential debates how something is said is more important than what is said as “facts” cannot be verified on the spot and can later be “spun” more than one way anyhow.  I think Mr. Romney’s presentation was better.

1.  He explained his tax plan in sufficient detail to allay fears among middle class voters, clearly and succinctly explaining that he would not raise taxes on the middle class.  This was a major concern going in.  He explained he would lower tax rates across the board, which are the same rates small business pay.  This would encourage them to hire more workers, thus reducing unemployment.  More people working equals more tax revenue. He would “pay” for this by reducing some deductions and exemptions, wasteful government programs and transferring some Federal programs to the states where he feels they belong anyway. President Obama pushed him hard on this issue, but could not rattle him on this, and ultimately, had no answer.

2.  President Obama and Mr. Romney also discussed Obamacare, which Mr. Romney wants to replace.  They clashed on the relative merits of Obamacare versus Romney’s plan, particularly with respect to pre-existing conditions and Medicare.  Mr. Romney scored points by citing the $716 billion taken from the Medicare Fund to help pay for Obamacare as well Obamacare’s use of a board of unelected bureaucrats without medical training with authority to decide medical issues.

3.  Regarding Governance, the difference between the two became obvious.  In summary, the Dems want government to do more, what Mr. Romney labeled “trickle down government.”  The GOP prefers more individual self-reliance and free enterprise.  President Obama and Mr. Romney clashed on the relative advantages and disadvantages of those philosophies. Mr. Obama had no good answer as to how to repay the $16 trillion debt.

The GOP is hopeful that last night was a turning point; the Dems view it a bump in the road.  In any event, it is premature for the Romneys to begin selecting furniture for the White House.  Last night’s “win” should yield a temporary bounce in the polls, but it may not necessarily translate into a permanent one.  Moreover, regardless of what the national polls may say, it will be the nine battleground states that really count and, within that group, Florida and Ohio, in particular. The election could very well be decided in those two states.  They are the largest of the group, and no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. In addition, there are three debates left for the Dems to come back.  But, at least Mr. Romney can now begin to build some momentum.

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