Last night, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney squared off against each other for the first time in the 2012 campaign season in what was the first of three Presidential debates. Full transcript and video. The night clearly belonged to Romney, with even Bill Maher conceding via twitter:
The talking heads, even over at MSNBC begrudgingly, seem to have come to the same conclusion: Romney won the debate and Obama looked like he was waiting for something, anything to allow him to get off the stage. Lawrence O’Donnell made the comment that Romney lied about his tax plan costing $5 Trillion and it made me wonder why anyone listens to this intellectual midget. Here’s a quick economics lesson, Larry: Tax cuts don’t cost money if they spur the necessary economic growth that creates jobs and adds revenue through taxes gained by the employed population growing. For instance, after the economy recovered from 9/11, yearly revenue, with President Bush’s tax cuts in place, grew from $1.7 Trillion in 2003 to $2.5 Trillion in 2008. If you compare that with any five-year period under President Clinton, it doesn’t matter which 5-year period you choose, you’ll see that level of economic growth and revenue to the federal government was never attained.
Both Obama and Romney played a little fast and loose with some of their facts, with Romney not quite telling the full story of his Medicaid plan and Obama regurgitating the misinformation that the Bush tax cuts were responsible for the economic collapse, when it was irresponsible mortgage-backed securities and irresponsible home loans to people that ordinarily wouldn’t have qualified that allowed the collapse of our financial markets. The President also made the claim, again, that he ended the Iraq War, when President Bush set the timeline for complete withdrawal from Iraq with the Status of Forces Agreement that was signed prior to his departure from office. That timeline was followed by Obama, not created by Obama.
Romney did a good job of getting in jabs at the President that weren’t just talk, but are backed up by the facts. During one exchange, Romney stated:
“The third area: energy. Energy is critical, and the president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. But not due to his policies. In spite of his policies. Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land.”
This statement is more true than Romney was letting on. While production has increased on private lands, like Romney said, it has also not been enough to combat the refusal of the federal government to allow drilling on federal lands. In fact, our oil production in the 1980’s was at 8 1/2 million barrels a day, with both private and federal combined. We now produce just over 5 1/2 million barrels a day. Our demand has decreased recently, compared to just a few short years ago, because so many people are out of work and we have also increased efficiency through technological advancements, but our population has grown by nearly 80 million people since the early 80’s, so our demand or consumption, since the 80’s, has actually increased. This has required us to rely on imports as well as allowed foreign based oil cartels to dictate prices based on how much they want to supply.
In another exchange, the President claimed that companies get a tax deduction to move their operations overseas. Romney’s reply was the strongest of the night and it made the President look like a fool when he didn’t try to retort. Romney replied with:
“Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.”
The President was partially correct, but his intended meaning was disingenuous. Companies do get a tax break when they move operations. It’s a deduction known as “the cost of doing business.” So, if a company moved from Atlanta, GA to Seattle, WA, they could apply a deduction for the expense of moving, since it was for “the cost of doing business,” just as they could if they moved overseas. It is not a special loophole that is persuading companies to move their operations overseas, as Obama was implying. And, a one-time deduction for expenses associated with moving would be worthless if the tax policy or customer base of the place they moved to was not as beneficial as where they came from. Either the President doesn’t know this or he was being disingenuous and trying to play class warfare.
Another factor that might have contributed to the opinion that Romney won the debate was floor time. In sports, statisticians often look at the amount of time each team had control of the ball and have realized that there is a correlation between the team with the most control time and the team that wins. While the moderator is expected to keep control of the clock and it was clear that Obama exceeded that at one point, Romney actually had more to say. After doing a rough analysis, Romney came out on top, with almost 52% of the comments coming from him vs. Obama with 48%. The fact that Romney replied point-by-point to Obama on most instances and Obama lacked a decent comeback compounds that effect all the more.
The only real time that Obama jabbed at Romney was over the contention that Romney has lacked specifics. He left alone, completely, the video that shows Romney making comments about the 47% of Americans that are on government assistance, which I think has Democrats steamed the most. This could be due to Obama’s own video resurfacing and a calculated decision to not go down that route, but I think it has more to do with Romney clearly being in command of the debate and directing, regardless of Jim Lehrer’s moderating efforts, where the discussion went.
Lastly, the demeanor of Romney vs. Obama was completely different. Romney was engaging and made sure to keep staring straight at the President in response to his statements, even if Obama decided to look down or away. The visual impression this leaves is vitally important and shows that Romney can not only hold his own, but he can win the “staring contest,” even if the President wasn’t aware that a contest was going on. In contrast, the President seemed flustered at times and barely ever looked in Romney’s direction.
This debate was a knock out of the park for Romney and, while it won’t make the election for him, it certainly did the opposite of breaking the election for him. After this debate, the momentum is with Romney. Obama was expected to win this debate easily, according to recent polls, and now that it is universally accepted that he lost it, either the polls were wrong, the people polled were wrong, or both.
The next debate will be October 11th between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan is considered a teacher when it comes to the federal budget and Biden is considered by many of his colleagues to be well-versed in foreign affairs. The debate will encompass both issues and will probably go down in history as one of the most watched and most anticipated VP debates. See you then.