Last night, Obama and Romney met once again to debate each other on their plans and outlook for America in the next four years. There were a number of stark contrasts compared to the first debate, the most obvious being the President's performance. Here, now, is my assessment of the debate, as I saw it.
First and foremost, I would like to point out that I don't like having winners and losers in debates. It makes things too black-and-white. But even more importantly, last night's debate was very evenly matched between the two candidates. Obama was much more aggressive, well-spoken, and direct in his explanations and criticisms. Romney continued his policy push and critique of the economy. Overall, both candidates came away looking good, and only because his performance was so poor last time, it appeared as though Obama may have had the upper hand.
There were some seriously contentious moments during the debate, one of which came when Mitt criticized Obama for not labeling the Benghazi attack an act of terrorism. Obama said he did, Mitt said he didn't, and Ms. Crowley fact-checked Romney right then and there and sided with Obama (though she later went back and clarified a more middle-of-the-road position. Romney supporters are still mad).
The other major point of contention was not immediately seen on stage, but has resounded through the internet with a whole slew of memes and websites devoted to Romney's discussion on women's rights that led to him using the phrase "binders full of women." At best, the phrase has been used to poke fun at Romney. At worst, it's been seen as evidence that Romney is out of touch, sexist, and doesn't understand women's issues.
So, how did the candidates do when talking policy? Obama, for his part, was much more animated, engaged, and appeared more willing to attack Romney, which was a good sign for his supporters after his last appearance on stage with the governor. Obama not only kept on Mitt's ass about his stated policies, but also found time to explain and expand on his record and his plans moving forward. He was clear, concise, and stuck to the point most of the time. He also did something that should have been a trigger for Romney, but for some reason was passed up by the former governor: he took responsibility for the Libyan attack on the embassy, and expressed regret over how it was handled.
Romney also did fairly well, at least until the very end. Once Obama attacked Romney for his politicization of the attack in Benghazi (which received applause from the audience, the only remarks to do so), Romney looked a little more reserved and seem to have lost some of his gusto. Prior to that however, he and Obama were largely neck and neck in terms of performance. While he was still light on specifics, and spent more time complaining about the President than presenting his plan, Romney was at least consistent with his previous debate.
However, Romney had one other moment that I felt was disrespectful. All of you people who thought Biden was disrespectful last week, do you think it was disrespectful of Romney to cut across Obama three times when asking to explain the oil licenses on public lands? And what about when Obama tried to ask him a question, and Romney cut him off with a dismissive "I'm speaking!" To me, it showed a lack of tact and respect for the President. I was also not impressed when Romney refused to answer a particular question so that he could get his two cents in on a completely different topic (this happened at least twice). To be fair, Obama had similar moments, but they were not as numerous, and not as dickish, as Romney's.
Overall, I felt it was an informative debate, and I look forward to the next one (foreign policy). As always, it will likely be that final debate that has the most impact on the election. As people on all sides gear up for this final push, and we start seeing the dirty tactics that rear their ugly head at this time each election cycle, it's clear we're in the home stretch and will soon be given some relief from the campaigns, political ads, and punditry. We're almost there.