Before going too much into details, let’s just say the second Presidential debate last night was remarkably different from the first one two weeks ago. I could attribute this to the format – a town hall metting where the candidates spent the entire 1½ hour answering questions from the audience – or to the moderator taking a much more hands on approach than Jim Lehrer did in Denver. However, I feel that the single biggest difference was that it was a totally different President Obama that showed up this time. It was a President willing to fight and attack Romney on issues like the 47% comment, his views on womens health and the auto bailout. That Obama was much better than the last debate, can be exemplified by the fact that 73% of the respondents in a poll said the President did better than last time, a number I actually find somewhat low, I think it should be clear to everyone that Obama did a much better job this time.
Of the things I noticed, was that e.g. we did not get a clearer picture of Mitt Romneys (in)famous tax plan that is the centerpiece of his economic package. He was directly asked to specify which loopholes and deductions he wants to close to pay for the 20% across the board (for all tax payers) tax cuts he is claiming will salvage the economy. He did not give any specifics on how to pay for the $500b loss of revenues that these tax cuts will amount to every year. We also saw a Romney that seemed uncomfortable when asked about equal pay and equal opportunities for females in the work place, and a Romney in a harsh tone telling the President that “Im speaking, you will get your turn”. This is not to say that Romney generally left a bad impression. He seemed comfortable answering questions on the Obama administrations economic policies the past four years and generally showcasing his own economic credentials. After the debate, a poll showed that, based on the debate, 67% of the respondents felt he will do a better job on the economy.
As mentioned, Obama seemed to be on the offensive for most of the night, and appeared much more energized than two weeks ago (link). One of the key moments was when Romney tried to mount an attack on Obama for not labelling the Benghazi attack a few weeks ago that killed the US ambassador, as an act of terror. Obama seemed prepared for the comments from Romney, telling off Romney that claims that his administration plays politics with 4 dead Americans is as offensive as it gets. Obama also hammered Romney on education funding and basically having the same economic ideas that his predecessor, Bush jr, had, and that liberals and most economists claim caused the financial crisis in the first place.
Overall, the debate was as heated as it gets, with the candidates continously interrupting each other and labelling each other as liars. In the end, I feel that this debate proved a solid comeback for Obama, while Romney did what he had to, eventhough he was the most defensive of the two. A poll of undecided voters right after the debate showed a small victory for Obama with 37% with Romney not far behind with 30%, and 33% claiming it was a tie. I would have voted for Obama (surprise, surprise) as I think it was important that Romney still did not give any specifics on his tax plan, effectually keeping the public in the dark on his views for the economic future. The economy is basically Romneys big argument to voters, so I still find it hard to believe that he will not provide any specifics. The question is now whether the bounce Romney has experienced lately has been due to voters getting a new view on Romney in the last debate, or if it was due to voters being disappointed in Obamas performance two weeks ago. Although I think Romney did a good job two weeks ago, I feel I was more negatively surprised by Obama than positively by Romney. Therefore, by giving an energized and good performance last night, I feel that this debate will not only “stop the bleeding” for the Obama campaign and the surge for Romney, but give Obama a slight bounce in the polls, as Obama did what he could to repair the damage his image got as a result of the first debate.