President Obama’s Failure to Dissect Mitt Romney in the First Debate

1) Romney’s Record as Massachusetts Governor – a) Job creation. Obama should have made the point that Massachusetts was 47th in job creation among all states during his tenure. b) Education. Obama could have countered Romney taking credit for Massachusetts’ high ranking in public school education by noting that it was a prior governor, William Weld, who was known for public school education reform. Also, Mitt Romney cut education funding: Obama could have cited the mayor in a Massachusetts’ town, who said her town lost 20 percent of its public school funding due to Romeny-engineered funding cuts. c) Bipartisan record. Romney cited his good working relationship with the Democratic-dominated state legislature. Obama’s comeback should have been that Romney vetoed some 800 bills while governor and the legislature overturned well over 700 of them.

2) Bain Capital – President Obama didn’t bring up Bain Capital in the first debate. He could lhave cited Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich as calling Romney a “vulture capitalist.” His main argument, however, should have been that Bain was not designed to create jobs: Bain both created and destroyed jobs. In initially introducing the company, Mitt Romney described Bain’s mission as making good profits for the company and its investors.

3) Romney’s Tax Plan – Obama should have started by going through the evolution of the tax plan: Romney first said big tax cuts were necessary to get the economy moving but changed that rationale at a campaign stop in Ohio, where he warned the crowd not to expect big tax breaks, because he would be cutting tax preferences to make the plan revenue neutral. Then, in lthe first debate, Romney denied having a $5 trillion tax plan, meaning that he either objected to the price tag, or he denied having a plan. Next, Obama could have gone through the Tax Policy Center’s (TPC) breakdown of the plan’s ten-year revenue loss. Then he could have used TPC’s estimate of how much revenue loss could be made up by eliminating all of the tax preferences of the wealthy and eliminating corporate tax breaks to offset the revenue loss from lowering the corporate tax rate. Further closing the revenue loss from Romney’s tax cuts and $2 trillion in additional military spending would have meant draconian cuts in domestic spending and middle-class tax preferences. Obama’s final point should have been why go through all these actions, when at the end there would be no additional governmental revenue and cuts in tax preferences would roughly equal tax cuts.

4) Gender Gap – Mitt Romney created a gender gap largely through: a) his anti-choice position; b) his jettisoning of women’s health care benefits in the Affordable Care Act by lhis frequent threats to kill lit; and c) the fear he induced about taking away women’s use of contraceptives. Romney seemed to be making up a lot of ground by emphasizing the many jobs that would be created by a Romney administration. Obama’s comeback should have been that it was largely conservative GOP governeors and Gop-dominated state legislatures eliminating teachers and other jobs overwhelming held by women, while Obama’s stimulus plan provided funding to save many jobs held by women.

6) $716 Billion Medicare Reduction – Obama did counter Romney’s claim in the debate but he left out the fact that Paul Ryan had the same $716 billion amount in his tax plan. Also, because Romney kept mentioning the $716 billion figure, Obama should have come back later in the debate and said, “Governor Romney, you continue to give false information about the $716 billion. Here are the real facts.”

7) Choosing Paul Ryan as Running Mate – President Obama could have mentioned that: a) Romney violated his own proposal to require every candidate for president to have three years of business experience; b) he chose a zealot anti-choicer as a running mate; and c) Paul Ryan is an advocate of privatizing Social Security.

8) Obama’s Big Blunder on Social Security – Instead of saying that his position on Social Security was about the same as that of Mitt Romney, Obama could have emphasized that Social Security was established by a Democratic president; had been most ardently protected by Democrats throughout the last three-quarters of a century; and Romney chose a Social Security privatizer as his running mate. President Obama’s own position on Social Security had been weakened by his willingness to cut benefits for current beneficiaries in his “Grand Bargain.”

9) Obama Use of Mitt Romney’s “Severely Conservative” Claim – Obama could have used Romney’s use of the “severely conservative” claim in the GOP presidential primary as the template for highlighting Romney’s switch to much more moderate positions in the recent past. Instead of just saying, for example, that Mitt Romney raised his hand in the primary debate when the debate moderator asked the GOP presidential contendors to raise their hands if they would refuse to accept $10 in spending cuts in exchange for $1 in tax increases, Obama should have said that all the GOP contendors raised their hands, because this would have revealed how intransigent the Republican Party has become in the matter of spending cuts versus tax increases; thus, making the point how;difficult it has been to get an agreement on reducing the deficit.

I close with some comments on the curious matter of the gender gap. A Pew Center poll found late in the campiagn that the gender gap had been closed, which was closely followed by polls in Iowa and Wisconson that the gender gap was still in double digits. Later, another poll found the gender gap had been closed, closely followed by other polls — one by USA Today — revealing a gender gap still existed. Probably the most curious event of this gender gap matter was the report in lthe llast week of the campaign, in which CBS Evening News highlighted the fight for the womne’s vote in Ohio. The news segment, which was premised on a close contest, was destroyed when CBS reported that Obama was ahead 56 to 39 percent among Ohio women.

Given the several reasons, some cited above, why the gender gap should have been enormous in favor of Obama, the only plausible reason it may have closed late in the campaign was the Romney camp’s claim that women would be the chief beneficiaries of the Romney administration’s jobs program. Thus, it would have behooved the Obama camp to emphasize that women’s job losses had been most severe in states under GOP political domination.


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