Obama gets beaten by Romney in first debate

The Republican candidate Mitt Romney overturned the presidential race last night in a stunning victory over President Barack Obama in the first of their three debates. A CNN/ORC post-debate poll […]

The Republican candidate Mitt Romney overturned the presidential race last night in a stunning victory over President Barack Obama in the first of their three debates. A CNN/ORC post-debate poll showed that 67 per cent of viewers believed Mr Romney won the debate on domestic policy. Only 25 per cent said Mr Obama won.

“A week ago, people were saying this was over,” said David Gergen, a political consultant and former advisor to four presidents. “Americans thought two to one that the president would win the debate, and he lost. Now the race is back on.”

From the outset, Mr Romney gave the impression he enjoyed the confrontation with Mr Obama, whom he watched closely, with a smug grin, throughout the 90 minute debate. Mr Obama almost never looked at Mr Romney, and gave the impression he wished he were elsewhere.

In his opening remarks, Mr Obama wished his wife Michelle a happy 20th wedding anniversary, calling her “Sweetie” and promising that “a year from now, we will not be celebrating in front of 40 million people.” The joke fell flat, but was retrieved by Mr Romney, who prompted the heartiest laughter of the evening when he congratulated the Obamas. “I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine, being here with me,” he told Mr Obama.

Mr Obama’s lacklustre performance may have been the result of nearly four years in the White House, unchallenged by sycophantic aides. His facial expressions seemed to indicate annoyance, irritation, even outrage at what Mr Romney was saying, yet he never attacked the Republican challenger.

In his moment of greatest exasperation, Mr Obama said, “Governor Romney says he is going to replace (heathcare reform) with something, but he can’t detail how it would be replaced… it reminds me of when he says he is going to close loopholes and deductions for his tax plan, but we don’t know the details… Is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret because they are too good?”

Mr Obama did not once mention the “47 per cent video” in which Mr Romney said “it’s not my job to worry about” nearly half of Americans who pay no income tax. After months during which his campaign hammered away at heartless practices at Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mr Romney, Mr Obama never mentioned Bain. He did not allude to Mr Romney’s refusal to release more than two years’ income tax returns. Nor did he point out that under Mr Romney, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states for job creation.

Mr Romney successfully executed the “Etch-a-Sketch” erasure that one of his top aides predicted during the Republican primaries, portraying himself as the defender of the middle classes, the saviour of Medicare (government health insurance for the elderly) and a champion of bi-partisan cooperation.

Mr Romney said he takes the reference to the “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence to mean “that we care for one another. We are a nation that believes we are all children of God. We care for one another.”

The darling of Wall Street, Mr Romney condemned the Dodd-Frank Bill, enacted under the Obama administration to regulate banking, as “the biggest kiss to big banks” and added, “I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and sign blank cheques.”

Mr Obama repeatedly portrayed Romney’s plan to cut income tax for all Americans by 20 per cent as a “$5 trillion tax cut” to which Mr Romney would add $2 trillion in increased military spending. “He has been asked a hundred times how he would close loopholes and deductions,” Mr Obama said. “When you add them all up, they don’t come to $5 trillion. The only way to meet Governor Romney’s pledge is by burdening middle class families.”

“I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut,” Mr Romney stated baldly, though economists say that is what a 20 per cent across the board income tax reduction would mean. “There will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit… I will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle income Americans.”

Job creation, healthcare and the role of government were the main topics of the debate. Mr Obama said he had created five million private sector jobs, that “the auto sector has come roaring back” and the property market is recovering. Mr Romney stretched the jobless number to include those who have stopped looking, part-time employees who would like to work more and the under-employed, citing 23 million Americans who are out of work. He repeatedly said that the number of people on food stamps has risen from 32 to 47 mn under Mr Obama. The job figures for September, to be released tomorrow (Fri), will constitute another big test for Mr Obama.

Mr Romney did not deliver the “one-liners” and “zingers” he reportedly memorised for the debate, but he turned one of Mr Obama’s favourite themes – trickle-down economics – on its head, calling Obama’s policies “trickle-down government”. He promised that his five-point plan for energy independence, more trade, cracking down on China, better education and helping small business would “restore the vitality that gets America working again.”

Mr Romney criticised Mr Obama for investing $90 bn in green energy companies. “That would have hired two million teachers,” he said. “About half of them went out of business. A number of them were owned by people who contributed to your campaign.”

Perorations on Dodd Frank and Simpson-Bowles (a bi-partisan deficit commission whose recommendations were never taken up) were probably lost on most television viewers, but Mr Romney succeeded in appearing calm, presidential and in command of the facts. It was at the same time his biggest flip-flop and his best performance.Lara Marlowe in Washington

The Republican candidate Mitt Romney overturned the presidential race last night (Wed) in a stunning victory over President Barack Obama in the first of their three debates. A CNN/ORC post-debate poll showed that 67 per cent of viewers believed Mr Romney won the debate on domestic policy. Only 25 per cent said Mr Obama won.

“A week ago, people were saying this was over,” said David Gergen, a political consultant and former advisor to four presidents. “Americans thought two to one that the President would win the debate, and he lost. Now the race is back on.”

From the outset, Mr Romney gave the impression he enjoyed the confrontation with Mr Obama, whom he watched closely, with a smug grin, throughout the 90 minute debate. Mr Obama almost never looked at Mr Romney, and gave the impression he wished he were elsewhere.

In his opening remarks, Mr Obama wished his wife Michelle a happy 20th wedding anniversary, calling her “Sweetie” and promising that “a year from now, we will not be celebrating in front of 40 million people.” The joke fell flat, but was retrieved by Mr Romney, who prompted the heartiest laughter of the evening when he congratulated the Obamas. “I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine, being here with me,” he told Mr Obama.

Mr Obama’s lacklustre performance may have been the result of nearly four years in the White House, unchallenged by sycophantic aides. His facial expressions seemed to indicate annoyance, irritation, even outrage at what Mr Romney was saying, yet he never attacked the Republican challenger.

In his moment of greatest exasperation, Mr Obama said, “Governor Romney says he is going to replace (heathcare reform) with something, but he can’t detail how it would be replaced… it reminds me of when he says he is going to close loopholes and deductions for his tax plan, but we don’t know the details… Is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret because they are too good?”

Mr Obama did not once mention the “47 per cent video” in which Mr Romney said “it’s not my job to worry about” nearly half of Americans who pay no income tax. After months during which his campaign hammered away at heartless practices at Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mr Romney, Mr Obama never mentioned Bain. He did not allude to Mr Romney’s refusal to release more than two years’ income tax returns. Nor did he point out that under Mr Romney, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states for job creation.

Mr Romney successfully executed the “Etch-a-Sketch” erasure that one of his top aides predicted during the Republican primaries, portraying himself as the defender of the middle classes, the saviour of Medicare (government health insurance for the elderly) and a champion of bi-partisan cooperation.

Mr Romney said he takes the reference to the “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence to mean “that we care for one another. We are a nation that believes we are all children of God. We care for one another.”

The darling of Wall Street, Mr Romney condemned the Dodd-Frank Bill, enacted under the Obama administration to regulate banking, as “the biggest kiss to big banks” and added, “I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and sign blank cheques.”

Mr Obama repeatedly portrayed Romney’s plan to cut income tax for all Americans by 20 per cent as a “$5 trillion tax cut” to which Mr Romney would add $2 trillion in increased military spending. “He has been asked a hundred times how he would close loopholes and deductions,” Mr Obama said. “When you add them all up, they don’t come to $5 trillion. The only way to meet Governor Romney’s pledge is by burdening middle class families.”

“I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut,” Mr Romney stated baldly, though economists say that is what a 20 per cent across the board income tax reduction would mean. “There will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit… I will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle income Americans.”

Job creation, healthcare and the role of government were the main topics of the debate. Mr Obama said he had created five million private sector jobs, that “the auto sector has come roaring back” and the property market is recovering. Mr Romney stretched the jobless number to include those who have stopped looking, part-time employees who would like to work more and the under-employed, citing 23 million Americans who are out of work. He repeatedly said that the number of people on food stamps has risen from 32 to 47 mn under Mr Obama. The job figures for September, to be released tomorrow (Fri), will constitute another big test for Mr Obama.

Mr Romney did not deliver the “one-liners” and “zingers” he reportedly memorised for the debate, but he turned one of Mr Obama’s favourite themes – trickle-down economics – on its head, calling Obama’s policies “trickle-down government”. He promised that his five-point plan for energy independence, more trade, cracking down on China, better education and helping small business would “restore the vitality that gets America working again.”

Mr Romney criticised Mr Obama for investing $90 bn in green energy companies. “That would have hired two million teachers,” he said. “About half of them went out of business. A number of them were owned by people who contributed to your campaign.”

Perorations on Dodd Frank and Simpson-Bowles (a bi-partisan deficit commission whose recommendations were never taken up) were probably lost on most television viewers, but Mr Romney succeeded in appearing calm, presidential and in command of the facts. It was at the same time his biggest flip-flop and his best performance.

IRISHTIMES

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