SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE (of THREE) 2012
Tuesday 16 October 2012
Location: David Mack Sports Complex: Hofstra University- Hempstead, New York
Subject: various (because of the format of this debate)
Moderator: Candy Crowley of CNN [Cable News Network]
Format: so-called "Town Hall Meeting": undecided voters make up the audience-- the moderator chooses the audience member who will address his or her question directly to the candidate the moderator also indicates: 2-minute response by each candidate, beginning with the candidate to whom the question is directed (Governor Romney won the 'coin toss' and, thereby, gets the first question of the evening; optional "discussion extension" of no more than 4 minutes at the discretion of the moderator. Debate to last no longer than 90 minutes all told.
Scoring for 'The Green Papers' by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON TheGreenPapers.com Staff
Explanation of the Scoring System used by 'The Green Papers' for the 2012 Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates
Round 1 [addressed to GOVERNOR ROMNEY]: What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?
Governor Romney answered: "What we have to do is two things: we have to make sure that we make it easier for kids to afford college and also make sure that, when they get out of college, there's a job. When I was Governor of Massachusetts, to get a high school degree, you had to pass an exam- if you graduated in the top quarter of your class, we gave you a John and Abigail Adams scholarship: four years tuition free in the college of your choice in Massachusetts- it's a public institution. I want to make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing: we're also going to have our loan program, so that people are able to afford school. But the key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school and what's happened over the last four years has been very, very hard for America's young people... I know what it takes to get this economy going. With half of college kids graduating this year without a job- and without a college level job- that's just unacceptable! And, likewise, you've got more and more debt on your back- so more debt and less jobs. I'm going to change that: I know what it takes to create good jobs again; I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve and kids across this country are going to recognize we're bringing back an economy."
President Obama responded: "Your future is bright and the fact that you're making an investment in higher education is critical- not just to you, but to the entire nation. Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country but not just jobs- good paying jobs: ones that can support a family. And what I want to do is: build on the five million jobs that we've created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone and there are a bunch of things we can do to make sure your future is bright. Number one: I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. Now, when Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, I said we're going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry and it's come surging back: I want to do that in industries, not just in Detroit, but all across the country and that means we change our tax code so we're giving incentives to companies that are investing here in the United States and creating jobs here- it also means we're helping them and small businesses to export all around the world to new markets. Number two: we've got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world and the fact that you're going to college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education and we've worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you- but I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained for the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs of the future. Number three: we've got to control our own energy. Now, not only oil and natural gas, which we've been investing in- but also, we've got to make sure we're building the energy source of the future: not just thinking about next year, but ten years from now, 20 years from now. That's why we've invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy efficient cars. We've got to reduce our deficit but we've got to do it in a balanced way: asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more along with cuts so that we can invest in education like yours. And let's take the money that we've been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America- roads, bridges, schools. We do those things: not only is your future going to be bright but America's future is going to bright as well."
Romney retorted: "The President's policies have been exercised over the last four years and they haven't put Americans back to work: we have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took office, it's 7.8 percent now- but if you calculated that unemployment rate, taking back the people who dropped out of the workforce, it would be 10.7 percent. We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work: that's why I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay... And one thing that the President said- which I want to make sure that we understand- he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt and that's right: my plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy's and Continental Airlines and come out stronger. And I know he keeps saying 'you want to take Detroit bankrupt'. Well, the President took Detroit bankrupt: you took General Motors bankrupt; you took Chrysler bankrupt- so when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did! And I think it's important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet, so they could start hiring more people: that was precisely what I recommended and ultimately what happened."
Obama came back: "What Governor Romney just said isn't true: he wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them with any way to stay open and we would have lost a million jobs. Don't take my word for it! Take the executives at GM and Chrysler- some of whom are Republicans, may even support Governor Romney- but they'll tell you his prescription wasn't going to work. And Governor Romney's says he's got a five-point plan? Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan: and that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules- that's been his philosophy in the private sector, that's been his philosophy as Governor, that's been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less; you can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it; you can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money. That's exactly the philosophy that we've seen in place for the last decade- that's what's been squeezing middle class families. And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess: the last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there!"
Scoring: Most of the time, a question such as this would mean a net loss of a Round by President Obama, mainly because the only statistics brought to bear are, where not actually negative, at most static (and the President's assurance to the questioner that his "future is bright" would largely fall on deaf ears) but this Round devolved into- for the most part- a "back and forth" over Romney's (in?)famous op-ed piece under the headline 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt'. The GOP standard-bearer defended his position on this score as best he could but the President deftly pointed out that "his" bankrupting automakers (with direct Federal Government involvement) was not quite equivalent to what Romney (who was clearly thinking of Bankruptcy in but private sector terms) had in mind. Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 2 [addressed to PRESIDENT OBAMA]: Your Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it's not policy of his department to help lower gas prices: do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
President Obama answered: "The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy- so here's what I've done since I've been President: we have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years; natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades; we have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I've also said is: we can't just produce traditional source of energy- we've also got to look to the future...all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that and that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling; we continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas- we've got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas and we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we've also got to continue to figure out how to have energy efficiency because, ultimately, that's how we're going to reduce demand and that's what's going to keep gas prices lower. Now, Governor Romney will say he's got an all-of-the-above plan but, basically, his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies- so he's got the oil and gas part but he doesn't have the clean energy part: and, if we are only thinking about tomorrow or the next day and not thinking about 10 years from now, we're not going to control our own economic future."
Governor Romney responded: "Well, let's look at the President's policies, all right- as opposed to the rhetoric- because we've had four years of policies being played out and the President's right in terms of the additional oil production but none of it came on Federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on Federal land and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the President cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on Federal lands and in Federal waters... Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables: I believe very much in our renewable capabilities- ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix. But what we don't need is to have the President keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas. This has not been 'Mr. Oil' or 'Mr. Gas' or 'Mr. Coal': talk to the people that are working in those industries...Let's take advantage of the energy resources we have, as well as the energy sources for the future and- if we do that, if we do what I'm planning on doing, which is getting us energy independent, North America energy independence within eight years- you're going to see manufacturing jobs come back because our energy is low cost, that are already beginning to come back because of our abundant energy. I'll get America and North America energy independent: I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses."
Obama replied: "There's no doubt that world demand's gone up but our production is going up and we're using oil more efficiently. And very little of what Governor Romney just said is true: we've opened up public lands- we're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous Administration and the previous President was an oil man! And natural gas isn't just appearing magically- we're encouraging it and working with the industry. And when I hear Governor Romney say he's a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind- Governor, when you were Governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, 'This plant kills' and took great pride in shutting it down and now suddenly you're a big champion of coal. So what I've tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we're producing more coal, we're producing it cleaner and smarter: same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas. And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years: oil production is up, natural gas production is up and, most importantly, we're also starting to build cars that are more efficient and that's creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported because that's the demand around the world and it also means that it'll save money in your pocketbook. That's the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that's what we're going to do in the next four years."
Romney retorted: "But that's not what you've done in the last four years- that's the problem! In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on Federal land and Federal waters in half."
Obama explained: "Here's what happened: you had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren't using- so what we said was you can't just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it's most profitable for you: these are public lands. So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it- and so what we did was take away those leases and we are now reletting them so that we can actually make a profit."
Romney, however, did not relent: "The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don't think anyone really believes that you're a person who's going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal... I don't think the American People believe that. I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas and the proof- the proof of whether a strategy is working or not- is what the price is that you're paying at the pump. If you're paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you're paying more: when the President took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon- now, it's $4.00 a gallon. The price of electricity is up. If the president's energy policies are working, you're going to see the cost of energy come down!"
Obama, nevertheless, would get the last word: "Well, think about what the Governor just said: he said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney's now promoting. So, it's conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because, with his policies, we might be back in that same mess. What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong and at the same time produce energy- and, with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we've built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once. So, I'm all for pipelines: I'm all for oil production. What I'm not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation... That's not an energy strategy for the future and we need to win that future- and I intend to win it as President of the United States!"
Scoring: A close one: however, President Obama more- and the better- parried Governor Romney's thrusts than the other way round (although Romney generally held his own). Each negative put forth by Romney (the issue of drilling on public lands or the price of gasoline at the pump when Obama took office, as compared to now) was at least answered by the President who- much in the manner (but without the demeanor!) of Vice President Biden in last week's Vice-Presidential Debate- did not let anything thrown at him by the Republican nominee go by easily here. Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 3 [addressed to GOVERNOR ROMNEY]: Concerning these various deductions- the mortgage deductions; the charitable deductions; the child tax credit; and also the education credits, which are important to me, because I have children in college- what would be your position on those things which are important to the Middle Class?
Governor Romney answered: "I want to bring the rates down: I want to simplify the tax code and I want to get middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes- and the reason I want middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes is because middle-income taxpayers have been buried over the past four years. You've seen, as middle-income people in this country, incomes go down $4,300 a family, even as gasoline prices have gone up $2,000; Health Insurance premiums up $2,500; food prices up; utility prices up. The middle-income families in America have been crushed over the last four years, so I want to get some relief to middle-income families...Now, how about deductions? Because I'm going to bring rates down across the board for everybody but I'm going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they're paying now: the top 5% of taxpayers will continue to pay 60% of the income tax the nation collects- so that'll stay the same; middle-income people are going to get a tax break. And so, in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be say everybody gets- I'll pick a number- $25,000 of deductions and credits and you can decide which ones to use. Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit, and so forth: you can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions- but your rate comes down and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason and that is every middle-income taxpayer no longer will pay any tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. No tax on your savings: that makes life a lot easier...I will not, under any circumstances, reduce the share that's being paid by the highest income taxpayers and I will not, under any circumstances, increase taxes on the Middle Class. The President's spending- the President's borrowing- will cost this nation to have to raise taxes on the American People, not just at the high end. A recent study has shown the people in the middle-class will see $4,000 per year in higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this Administration. I will not let that happen: I want to get us on track to a balanced budget and I'm going to reduce the tax burden on middle-income families."
President Obama responded: "My philosophy on taxes has been simple and that is: I want to give Middle Class families- and folks who are striving to get into the Middle Class- some relief because they have been hit hard over the last decade: over the last 15, over the last 20 years. So, four years ago, I stood on a stage just like this one... and I said I would cut taxes for Middle Class families and that's what I've done- by $3,600. I said I would cut taxes for small businesses, who are the drivers and engines of growth, and we've cut them 18 times. And I want to continue those tax cuts for Middle Class families and for small business. But what I've also said is: if we're serious about reducing the deficit- if this is genuinely a moral obligation to the next generation- then, in addition to some tough spending cuts, we've also got to make sure that the wealthy do a little bit more. So what I've said is: your first $250,000 worth of income, no change and that means 98 percent of American families, 97 percent of small businesses, they will not see a tax increase. I'm ready to sign that bill right now: the only reason it's not happening is because Governor Romney's allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent. But what I've also said is: for above $250,000, we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was President- we created 23 million new jobs: that's part of what took us from deficits to surplus- it will be good for our economy and it will be good for job creation. Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy: he was on '60 Minutes' just two weeks ago and he was asked: 'Is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 year?' and he said, 'Yes, I think that's fair'. Not only that, he said, 'I think that's what grows the economy'. Well, I fundamentally disagree with that... we just have a different theory. And when Governor Romney stands here, after a year of campaigning, when- during a Republican primary- he stood on stage and said 'I'm going to give tax cuts'- he didn't say tax rate cuts, he said 'tax cuts to everybody', including the top 1 percent- you should believe him because that's been his history and that's exactly the kind of top-down economics that is not going to work if we want a strong Middle Class and an economy that's striving for everybody."
Romney retorted: "You heard what I said about my tax plan: the top 5% will continue to pay 60%, as they do today. I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people-I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people. And why do I want to bring rates down and, at the same time, lower exemptions and deductions, particularly for people at the high end? Because if you bring rates down, it makes it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people. And, for me, this is about jobs: I want to get America's economy going again. 54% of America's workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals so, when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people. For me, I look at what's happened in the last four years and say this has been a disappointment: we can do better than this... We don't have to live like this: we can get this economy going again. My five-point plan does it: energy independence for North America in five years; opening up more trade, particularly in Latin America- cracking down on China when they cheat; getting us to a balanced budget; fixing our training programs for our workers; and, finally, championing small business. I want to make small businesses grow and thrive: I know how to make that happen- I spent my life in the private sector: I know why jobs come and why they go and they're going now because of the policies of this Administration."
Obama came back: "The cost of lowering rates for everybody across the board 20%- along with what he also wants to do in terms of eliminating the estate tax, along what he wants to do in terms of corporates, changes in the tax code- it costs about $5 trillion. Governor Romney then also wants to spend $2 trillion on additional military programs even though the military's not asking for them- that's $7 trillion. He also wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans: that's another trillion dollars- that's $8 trillion. Now, what he says is: he's going to make sure that this doesn't add to the deficit and he's going to cut Middle Class taxes- but, when he's asked, how are you going to do it: which deductions, which loopholes are you going to close? He can't tell you. The fact that he only has to pay 14% on his taxes when a lot of you are paying much higher, he's already taken that off the board: capital gains are going to continue to be at a low rate so we're not going to get money that way!... The math doesn't add up and what's at stake here is one of two things: either this blows up the deficit (because, keep in mind, this is just to pay for the additional spending that he's talking about- $7 trillion, $8 trillion- before we even get to the deficit we already have) or, alternatively, it's got to be paid for- not only by closing deductions for wealthy individuals, that will pay for about a 4% reduction in tax rates. You're going to be paying for it: you're going to lose some deductions and you can't buy the sales pitch. Nobody who's looked at it that's serious actually believes it adds up!"
Romney replied: "Well- of course they add up!: I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years and balanced the budget; I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget; I ran the state of Massachusetts as a Governor- to the extent any Governor does- and balanced the budget all four years. When we're talking about math that doesn't add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits over the last four years, $5 trillion? That's math that doesn't add up. We have a President talking about someone's plan in a way that's completely foreign to what my real plan is!... I know what it takes to balance budgets: I've done it my entire life. So, for instance, when he says, 'Yours is a $5 trillion cut': well, no it's not because I'm offsetting some of the reductions with holding down some of the deductions."
Scoring: A close one, if only because there is no real way to know just which candidate's taxation policies might prove to be the most viable over time (since only one can be elected President for the 2013-2017 term, we will never ever be able to know what the loser come this November would actually do) and, therefore, which candidate (or, for that matter, whether either candidate) well answered the concerns of the questioner is largely in the eye of the beholder (something well beyond the purview of the method via which I happen to be scoring these Debates). Romney certainly flirted with no little trouble with his "Bucket O' Deductions" concept, I'm afraid- but he pulled this Round out with his spirited defense of his own policy proposals as well as his well scoring Obama's deficit spending as just as much (if not more) "math not adding up" as anything he himself might have proposed. Romney 10, Obama 9.
Round 4 [addressed to PRESIDENT OBAMA]: In what new ways do you intend to rectify inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72% of what their male counterparts earn?
President Obama answered: "The first bill I signed was something called the Lilly Ledbetter bill and it's named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn't bring suit because she should have found about it earlier- whereas she had no way of finding out about it: so we fixed that and that's an example of the kind of advocacy that we need because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women's issue- this is a family issue, this is a Middle Class issue: and that's why we've got to fight for it. It also means that we've got to make sure that young people like yourself are able to afford a college education... We've expanded Pell Grants for millions of people, including millions of young women, all across the country: we did it by taking $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program and we said 'let's just cut out the middleman; let's give the money directly to students'. And, as a consequence, we've seen millions of young people be able to afford college and that's going to make sure that young women are going to be able to compete in that marketplace. But we've got to enforce the laws, which is what we are doing, and we've also got to make sure that, in every walk of life we do not tolerate discrimination- that's been one of the hallmarks of my Administration: I'm going to continue to push on this issue for the next four years."
Governor Romney responded: "An important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as Governor of my State, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men...We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet...I was proud of the fact that, after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 States and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America. Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort but, number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My Chief of Staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school: she said 'I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night; I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school'. So we said 'Fine! Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you'. We're going to have to have employers in the new economy- in the economy I'm going to bring to play- that are going to be so anxious to get good workers, they're going to be anxious to hire women... What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford. This is what I have done: it's what I look forward to doing and I know what it takes to make an economy work and I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8% unemployment is not a real strong economy; an economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy; an economy with 50% of kids graduating from college that can't find a job- or a college level job- that's not what we have to have!"
President Obama retorted: "I just want to point out that when Governor Romney's campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill- whether he supported it- he said 'I'll get back to you' and that's not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy... And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are- and I've got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody's sons have: that's part of what I'm fighting for as President of the United States!"
Scoring: Neither candidate directly answered this question (at least- in President Obama's case- as regards "new ways" of redressing Unequal Gender-based Pay) but the President now ever has the Lilly Ledbetter Act in his back pocket which would, here, have trumped just about anything Governor Romney might have said in any event (that is: unless Romney suddenly were to abandon a rather long history of American Conservatism and openly opine that Government should be telling businesses- both large and small- just what to pay which employees in just about every case!). Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 5 [addressed to GOVERNOR ROMNEY]: I am an undecided voter, because I'm disappointed with the lack of progress I've seen in the last four years; however, I do attribute much of America's economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush Administration: what is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?
Governor Romney answered: "President Bush and I are different people and these are different times and that's why my five-point plan is so different than what he would have done... I'm going to get us to a balanced budget: President Bush didn't. President Obama was right: he said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half a trillion dollars under the Bush years- he was right, but then he put in place deficits twice that size for every one of his four years. And his forecast for the next four years is more deficits, almost that large, so that's the next area I'm different than President Bush. And then let's take the last one, championing small business: our Party has been focused too long on big business. I came through small business- I understand how hard it is to start a small business: that's why everything I'll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep the taxes down on small business; I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it... My priority is jobs. I know how to make that happen. And President Bush has a very different path for a very different time. My path is designed in getting small businesses to grow and hire people."
President Obama responded: "Well, first of all, I think it's important to tell you that we did come in during some tough times: we were losing 800,000 jobs a month when I started, but we had been digging our way out of policies that were misplaced and focused on the top doing very well and Middle Class folks not doing well. Now we've seen 31 consecutive months of job growth: 5.2 million new jobs created- and the plans that I talked about will create even more. But when Governor Romney says that he has a very different economic plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan are tax cuts- that's what took us from surplus to deficit. When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China... Governor, you're the last person who's going to get tough on China! And what we've done when it comes to trade is, not only sign three trade deals to open up new markets, but we've also set up a task force for trade that goes after anybody who is taking advantage of American workers or businesses and not creating a level playing field. We've brought twice as many cases against unfair trading practices than the previous Administration and we've won every single one that's been decided. When I said that we had to make sure that China was not flooding our domestic market with cheap tires, Governor Romney said I was being protectionist- that it wouldn't be helpful to American workers. Well, in fact, we saved 1,000 jobs- and that's the kind of tough trade actions that are required. But the last point I want to make is this: you know, there are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn't propose turning Medicare into a voucher; George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform: he didn't call for self-deportation... There are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush but they're not on economic policy: in some ways, he's gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy and I think that's a mistake- that's not how we're going to move our economy forward."
Scoring: In the main, this was a Round Governor Romney would find very hard to win in any event. Certainly every presidential nominee of one or the other Major Party differs from all his predecessors, even his more recent predecessors, as Party standard-bearer (whether these happened to have won or lost in their respective bids for the White House) to at least some degree while every such presidential nominee would simply love to link his immediate opponent to the past "sins" of that opponent's Party (whether such an exercise be valid or not). Yet by wearing the very Party label "Republican", there is simply no way for Romney to all that much divorce himself from the most recent GOP occupant of the White House (especially considering that- only four years ago- Romney, no less than eventual GOP nominee John McCain, had sought to be George W. Bush's immediate successor in the Presidency). Truth be told, Romney didn't even really try here: instead, utilizing this opportunity to once again reiterate his "five-point plan". On the other hand, this gave President Obama a great opening to make closer comparisons between Romney and George W. Bush while- at the same time- advancing his own policies. Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 6 [addressed to PRESIDENT OBAMA]: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008: what have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012?
President Obama answered: "Well, we've gone through a tough four years- there's no doubt about it. But four years ago, I told the American People- and I told you- I would cut taxes for Middle Class families and I did; I told you I'd cut taxes for small businesses and I have; I said that I'd end the war in Iraq and I did; I said we'd refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9/11 and we have gone after al-Qa'eda's leadership like never before and Osama bin Laden is dead; I said that we would put in place Health Care reform to make sure that insurance companies can't jerk you around and, if you don't have health insurance, that you'd have a chance to get affordable insurance- and I have. I committed that I would rein in the excesses of Wall Street and we passed the toughest Wall Street reforms since the 1930s: we've created five million jobs and gone from 800 jobs a month being lost and we are making progress; we saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse."
"Now, does that mean you're not struggling?", Obama then asked. "Absolutely not- a lot of us are: and that's why the plan that I've put forward- for manufacturing and education and reducing our deficit in a sensible way; using the savings from ending wars to rebuild America and putting people back to work; making sure that we are controlling our own energy but, not only the energy of today, but also the energy of the future- all of those things will make a difference so the point is: the commitments I've made, I've kept- and those that I haven't been able to keep, it's not for lack of trying and we're going to get it done in a second term."
Governor Romney responded: "I think you know better: I think you know that these last four years haven't been so good as the President just described and that you don't feel like you're confident that the next four years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that, if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you're going to get: you're going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can't afford four more years like the last four years... He said that he'd cut in half the deficit. He hasn't done that either. In fact, he doubled it. He said that by now middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It's gone up by $2,500 a year... The Middle Class is getting crushed under the policies of a President who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again: he keeps saying, 'Look, I've created 5 million jobs'- that's after losing 5 million jobs! The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country... How about the growth of the economy? It's growing more slowly this year than last year and more slowly last year than the year before. The President wants to do well- I understand: but the policies he's put in place from 'Obamacare' to Dodd-Frank, to his tax policies to his regulatory policies, these policies combined have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have... The President has tried but his policies haven't worked. He's great as a speaker and describing his plans and his vision: that's wonderful, except we have a record to look at and that record shows he just hasn't been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need."
Scoring: As has been the case with just about every 'Round' in these Debates so far dealing with the Economy most directly, it is rather difficult for the President to win a Round in which so many negative economic statistics can so readily be recited by his opponent. Yes, Obama can always say what he intends to do as regards this issue but Romney can always retort with that which the President has (or has not) done. Romney 10, Obama 9.
Round 7 [addressed to GOVERNOR ROMNEY]: What do you plan on doing with immigrants without their 'green card's that are currently living here as productive members of society?
Governor Romney answered: "We welcome legal immigrants into this country: I want our legal system to work better; I want it to be streamlined; I want it to be clearer: I don't think you should have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people- green cards, rather- to people who graduate with skills that we need: people around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma: come to the USofA ... Number two: we're going to have to stop illegal immigration: there are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally- those who've come here illegally take their place; so I will not grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally... I won't put in place magnets for people coming here illegally: so, for instance, I would not give driver's licenses to those that have come here illegally as the President would. The kids of those that came here illegally- those kids- I think should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States and military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway... Now, when the President ran for office, he said that... he'd file a bill in his first year that would reform our immigration system, protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration: he didn't do it. He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate- supermajority in both houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come legally and for those that are here illegally today?"
President Obama responded: "We're just a few miles away from Ellis Island: we all understand what this country has become because talent from all around the world wants to come here- people who are willing to take risks; people who want to build on their dreams and make sure their kids have even bigger dreams than they have. But we're also a nation of laws: so what I've said is we need to fix a broken immigration system and I've done everything that I can on my own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix the system. The first thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system to reduce the backlog- make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line, obeying the law to make sure that they can come here and contribute to our country and that's good for our economic growth: they'll start new businesses; they'll make things happen to create jobs here in the United States... What I've also said is: if we're going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang-bangers, people who are hurting the community- not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families and that's what we've done. And what I've also said is for young people who come here- brought here oftentimes by their parents, had gone to school here, pledged Allegiance to the Flag, think of this as their country, understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers- we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship and that's what I've done administratively."
"Now, Governor Romney just said, you know, he wants to help those young people too", Obama went on, "but, during the Republican primary, he said, 'I will veto the DREAM Act' that would allow these young people to have access. His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say 'We're going to encourage self-deportation': making life so miserable on folks that they'll leave. He called the Arizona law a model for the nation: part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers. You know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they're not a citizen, I don't want to empower somebody like that!"
Romney defended himself thusly: "I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that aspect: I said that the 'e-verify' portion of the Arizona law, which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the nation!... Now, let me mention one other thing and that is self-deportation says 'let people make their own choice'. What I was saying is: we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation; instead, let people make their own choice and- if they find that they can't get the benefits here that they want and they can't find the job they want- then they'll make a decision to go a place where they have better opportunities. But I'm not in favor of rounding up people and taking them out of this country: I am in favor- as the President has said, and I agree with him- which is that if people have committed crimes we got to get them out of this country."
President Obama retorted: "I do want to make sure that we just understand something: Governor Romney says he wasn't referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top advisor on Immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law- the entirety of it, not just 'e-verify': the whole thing! That's his policy and it's a bad policy: and it won't help us grow!"
Scoring: Both candidates very well expressed their respective positions on Immigration (as well as how little they each actually thought of the other's position on this issue) but Romney's own defense of his concept of "Self-Deportation" did rather little to actually counter the President's notion that it was merely "making life so miserable on folks that they'll leave" (which is the very essence of "mak[ing] a decision to go a place where they have better opportunities" [I myself use pretty much the same tactic when I bring the bird feeders back inside the house whenever a large flock of voracious grackles happen to show up in my backyard!]). A close Round, actually... yet still Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 8 [addressed to PRESIDENT OBAMA]: We were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department had refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya prior to the attacks that killed four Americans: who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
President Obama answered: "Let me first of all talk about our diplomats because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in very dangerous situations- and these aren't just representatives of the United States: they are my representatives! I send them there, oftentimes into harm's way: I know these folks and I know their families, so nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am. So, as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my National Security team and I gave them three instructions-- number one: beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region; number two: investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn't happen again; and number three: we are going to find out who did this and we're going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I've said throughout my Presidency is, when folks mess with Americans, we go after them. Now Governor Romney had a very different response: while we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points, and that's not how a Commander-in-chief operates. You don't turn National Security into a political issue- certainly not right when it's happening... When I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable- and I am ultimately responsible for what's taking place there because these are my folks and I'm the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home. You know that I mean what I say!"
Governor Romney responded: "I think the President just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk and he takes responsibility for the failure in providing those security resources and those terrible things may well happen from time to time... There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack and there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American People: whether there was some misleading or, instead, whether we just didn't know what happened, you have to ask yourself why didn't we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could we have not known? But I find more troubling than this, that on the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador- the first time that's happened since 1979- when we have four Americans killed there- when, apparently, we didn't know what happened- that the President, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fund-raiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, other political event. I think these actions taken by a President and a leader have symbolic significance and, perhaps, even material significance in that you'd hope that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We've read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration- this was an attack by terrorists."
President Obama retorted: "The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the World that we are going to find out exactly what happened- that this was an act of terror- and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then, a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families. And the suggestion that anybody on my team- whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team- would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That's not what we do: that's not what I do as President- that's not what I do as Commander-in-chief!"
Romney, with something of an air of disbelief, questioned this: "I think it interesting the President just said something which is that, on the day after the attack, he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror."
"That's what I said", the President interjected.
"You said in the Rose Garden- the day after the attack- it was an act of terror, it was not a spontaneous demonstration: is that what you're saying?", Romney asked. "I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the President 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror!"
"Get the transcript!", Obama intoned.
Moderator Crowley interrupted at this point: "He did, in fact, call it 'an act of terror' "
"Can you say that a little louder, Candy?" Obama asked with at least a hint of humor in his voice.
Crowley further explained: "It did- as well- take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that."
Romney then noted: "The Administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction: it took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group."
Scoring: But- alas! (and despite all the semantics re: "act of terror" versus "terrorist attack")- the damage had already been done. This- the only question during this entire Debate about Foreign Policy in and of itself (as I had already suggested would be the case in my own 16 October piece, the Economy was, indeed, the predominant concern amongst the questioners)- could well have been a minefield for the President but, instead, Romney well "stepped in it". Obama's initial claim re: Romney having politicized the attack on the American embassy staff in Benghazi on the most recent anniversary of 9/11 would not have registered all that much on his own behalf (and would've been well parried by Romney's own criticism of the Administration's handling of the whole affair) but for the fact that Romney then went into 'You want politicization? I've got yer politicization right here!' mode (through his- however obliquely, and in classic 'Conspiracy Theory' method ["I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'!"], too!- suggesting that the Administration might have been purposely misleading [which Romney might have actually gotten away with, except for his], then going even further and implying that Obama cared far more about political fundraising than the victims of the attack and their families). The President, for his own part, shot back with as close to anger in his demeanor as President Obama (at least in public) ever seems to get, this followed by Romney (in yet another tactical mistake on the Republican standard-bearer's part) getting "hung out to dry" by the fact that the President had, indeed, called the attack "an act of terror" in the Rose Garden the very day after the attack. Romney may well have otherwise made points with his own point about the undue delay in publicly labeling the incident a terrorist attack per se but his whole reaction to the veracity of the President's own "act of terror" quote only served to end up too much blunting his own argument. All in all, too much proverbial "failing to see the forest for the trees" here and, thereby, a BAD Round for Governor Romney! (And, if nothing else, this Round well illustrates just why I happen to think Foreign Policy- the very subject of the final Presidential Debate next week- may yet prove to be Governor Romney's undoing overall, unless the Republican nominee much better articulates it come that Debate). Obama 10, Romney 8.
Round 9 [addressed to PRESIDENT OBAMA]: During the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals: what has your Administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
President Obama answered: "We're a Nation that believes in the Second Amendment and I believe in the Second Amendment: we've got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves- but there have been too many instances during the course of my Presidency where I've had to comfort families who have lost somebody... We have to enforce the laws we've already got: make sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We've done a much better job in terms of background checks but we've got more to do when it comes to enforcement; but I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets and so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence because, frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence and they're not using AK-47s: they're using cheap handguns!... What I want is a comprehensive strategy: part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill; but part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur."
Governor Romney responded: "I'm not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don't want to have automatic weapons and that's already illegal in this country... What I believe we have to do- as the President mentioned towards the end of his remarks there- is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence that we have... We need moms and dads helping to raise kids: wherever possible, the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads: but, gosh, to tell our kids that, before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone- that's a great idea! Because, if there's a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically."
Romney went on: "The greatest failure we've had with regards to gun violence, in some respects, is what is known as 'Fast and Furious' which was a program under this Administration- and how it worked exactly I think we don't know precisely- where thousands of automatic, and AK-47 type weapons were given to people that ultimately gave them to drug lords. They used those weapons against their own citizens and killed Americans with them, and this was a program of the Government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can't imagine- but it's one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this Administration... In my State, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation- and it's referred to as an Assault Weapons Ban but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people come together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted... it was a mutually agreed-upon piece of legislation: that's what we need more of... What we have right now in Washington is a place that's gridlocked: we haven't had the leadership in Washington to work on a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state and bring these two together."
Obama retorted: "I think Governor Romney was for an Assault Weapons Ban before he was against it and he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association- so that's on the record. But I think that one area we agree on is the importance of parents and the importance of schools because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they are less likely to engage in these kinds of violent acts."
Scoring: Both candidates did a fairly good job at linking gun violence to broader elements within American Society: neither took the all-too-simplistic tack that gun violence can be solved primarily through debate re: legislation on guns alone (though Obama took the "community activism" approach to seeking to reduce street violence while Romney emphasized the role of Home and Family, as might have been most expected of each candidate- considering their respective, and competing, ideologies). However, Romney seemed less than enthusiastic about even bringing up the Assault Weapons Ban (he even pooh-pooh'd the very term!) he himself had gotten adopted in Massachusetts and this attitude very much undermined his attempt to then use it as an example of his own bipartisanship as Governor; Obama won the Round with his retort to this (but not by as much as he otherwise might have, for the President failed to defend his Administration against the claims Romney made about the now-infamous 'Fast and Furious' program). Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 10 [addressed to GOVERNOR ROMNEY]: The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy: what plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?
Governor Romney answered: "China is now the largest manufacturer in the world- it used to be the United States of America. A lot of good people have lost jobs: a half a million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last four years... We have made it less attractive for enterprises to stay here than to go offshore from time to time. What I will do- as President- is make sure it's more attractive to come to America again: this is the way we're going to create jobs in this country. It's not by trickle-down government: saying we're going to take more money from people and hire more government workers, raise more taxes, put in place more regulations. Trickle-down government has never worked here, has never worked anywhere: I want to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for small business, for big business, to invest and grow in America."
"Now, we're going to have to make sure that as we trade with other nations that they play by the rules- and China hasn't", Romney went on. "China has been a currency manipulator for years and years and years and the President has a regular opportunity to label them as a currency manipulator but refuses to do so. On 'Day 1', I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me- as President- to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers. So we're going to make sure that people we trade with around the world play by the rules... I want to bring down the tax rates on small employers, big employers, so they want to be here. Canada's tax rate on companies is now 15%, ours is 35%: so, if you're starting a business, where would you rather start it? We have to be competitive if we're going to create more jobs here... If we get back all kinds of jobs into this country, then you're going to see rising incomes again: the reason incomes are down is because unemployment is so high. I know what it takes to get this to happen and my plan will do that- and one part of it is to make sure that we keep China playing by the rules."
President Obama responded: "Both Governor Romney and I agree actually that we should lower our corporate tax rate- it's too high; but there's a difference in terms of how we would do it: I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China; that allow them to profit offshore and not have to get taxed so they have tax advantages offshore... Governor Romney actually wants to expand those tax breaks. One of his big ideas- when it comes to corporate tax reform- would be to say: if you invest overseas, you make profits overseas, you don't have to pay U.S. taxes. But, of course, if you're a small business or a mom-and-pop business or a big business starting up here, you've got to pay even the reduced rate that Governor Romney's talking about; and it's estimated that that will create 800,000 new jobs- the problem is: they'll be in China, or India or Germany. That's not the way we're going to create jobs here!"
The President then went on to note: "Governor Romney talked about China- as I already indicated: in the private sector, Governor Romney's company invested in what were called 'pioneers of outsourcing'. That's not my phrase; that's what reporters called it! And, as far as currency manipulation, the currency has actually gone up 11% since I've been President because we have pushed them hard and we've put unprecedented trade pressure on China. That's why exports have significantly increased under my Presidency- that's going to help to create jobs here."
On the issue of even the most technologically advanced items being manufactured in China (because labor costs are so cheap there as compared to the United States), Romney argued that "the answer is very straightforward: we can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China's been cheating over the years... by stealing our intellectual property: our designs, our patents, our technology. There's even an Apple store in China that's a counterfeit Apple store- selling counterfeit goods!... We have to make America the most attractive place for entrepreneurs, for people who want to expand their business- that's what brings jobs in. The President's characterization of my tax plan is completely false, let me tell you."
For his part, Obama claimed that "there are some jobs that are not going to come back because they are low wage/low skill jobs: I want high wage/ high skill jobs... that's why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing; that's why we've got to make sure that we've got the best science and research in the world- and, when we talk about deficits- if we're adding to our deficit for tax cuts for folks who don't need them and we're cutting investments in research and science that will create the next Apple, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world- we will lose that race."
Scoring: Obama did better than Romney in this Round primarily because he quite well defended his own Administration against Romney's charge that the President hadn't really done anything as regarded China's "currency manipulation" even though Romney's points about China's "cheating" per se may still be well taken. Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 11 [addressed to GOVERNOR ROMNEY (but, in reality, intended for both candidates)]: What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American People have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?
Governor Romney began by noting that "the President's campaign has tried to characterize me as someone who's very different than who I am: I care about 100% of the American People; I want 100% of the American People to have a bright and prosperous future: I care about our kids... I spent my life in the private sector, not in Government... My passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God and I believe we're all children of the same God: I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I served as a missionary for my church; I served as a pastor in my congregation for about ten years... and, as Governor of my State, I was able to get 100 percent of my people insured- all my kids and 98 percent of the adults."
"We don't have to settle for what we're going through", Romney continued. "We don't have to settle for gasoline at 4 bucks; we don't have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level... If I become President, I'll get America working again; I will get us on track to a balanced budget: the President hasn't- I will! I'll make sure we can reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them for coming generations: the President said he would- he didn't. I'll get our incomes up-- and, by the way, I've done those things: I've served as Governor and showed I could get them done!"
President Obama responded: "A lot of this campaign- maybe over the last four years- has been devoted to this notion that I think Government creates jobs... that's not what I believe! I believe that the Free Enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known: I believe in self-reliance and individual innovative and risk-takers being rewarded; but I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules... that's how we built the world's greatest Middle Class."
Obama went on to opine that when Governor Romney "said behind closed doors that 47% of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about:... people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes- but don't make enough income; and I want to fight for them- that's what I've been doing for the last four years: because, if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds... That's why I'm asking for your vote and that's why I'm asking for another four years!"
Scoring: Romney began this Round well and even anticipated the President eventually bringing up (as Obama, in fact, did) his own infamous "47% comment" but Romney ended up telling us not all that much we didn't already know about him (that is: assuming one has been paying attention going back at least to the Republican National Convention!). Obama's tack was the more effective: for he focused on one particular aspect of what has been said about him (and a relatively uncontroversial one at that [no reference to his being thought a closet Muslim or not really being a natural-born citizen or anything of that sort!]), yet one that- nonetheless- does have at least some of the more vociferous anti-Obama people "out there" thinking of the President as (to use Congressman Allen West [R-Florida]'s characterization of many Democrats in Congress) a "card-carrying Socialist" and then turned it into an effective closing exposition on just why he was now asking the American People to re-elect him, despite the still tough economic times. Obama 10, Romney 9.
FINAL SCORE: Obama 108- Romney 100