By: Mark Berman
Were you looking for details in Wednesday night’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney? Well, you’re probably still looking.
The pandering started right away. One of the first words out of Romney’s mouth was “a woman in Dayton, Ohio grabbed my arm…” Ohio is one of the battleground states that could decide the election, so Romney figured he’d try to grab a few votes by mentioning the state. Obama did the same thing, but he waited until his closing statement.
When he wasn’t talking, Romney had that smug grin on his face. Obama also smiled at times, but there was no smugness behind it. The president almost seemed to be enjoying Romney’s distortions of Obama’s record.
The first 20 minutes or so were spent chatting about Romney’s tax plan, which Obama said will include a $5 trillion decrease for the wealthy. Romney surprisingly denied this – surprising because he’s been talking about lowering taxes for rich folks (read, the Republicans he had to woo to win the nomination) for a year and a half.
In what really came down to a matter of semantics, Romney said he would not approve any tax decrease that would increase the deficit. So theoretically it could be $5 trillion, and it would be all right as long as it does not increase the deficit.
Romney said he would accomplish that and lower taxes for everyone by closing loopholes and deductions, and that would somehow result in tax revenue remaining the same. However, Romney would not say what those loopholes and deductions would be.
That was a theme of the night. Romney said he would throw out Dodd-Frank, but he wouldn’t say what would replace it. He vowed to repeal Obamacare, but refused to reveal his own health care plan, calling it a “lengthy discussion.”
Obama was smart to point this out, asking sarcastically why Romney won’t release his ideas: “Are these plans too good?”
Romney tried to explain his evasiveness by saying that just like President Reagan before him, he only wants to lay out his principles and then figure out how to meet them later. He said there are “alternatives to accomplish the objectives I have,” that “it’s not my way or the highway.”
Obama was not particularly big on details, either, but he really didn’t have to be. We’ve been watching the president for nearly four years now – we know every detail of his plans. He pretty much promised more of the same, insisting that his policies have worked and that we should stay the course.
Overall Romney seemed sharper and more prepared than Obama. That was to be expected, even by Democrats – Romney could spend as much time as he wanted to prepare, while Obama has that pesky business of running the country eating into his prep time.
Although he did a very good job, Romney did not deliver the “knockout punch” that could seal the election for him. Obama went in with a lead, but with an instant poll saying that 67% of voters thought Romney won the debate and follow up polls showing that Romney gained ground in the race, it remains to be seen if Romney can duplicate his performance in the second and third debates.