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MA Experts and Pundits React to Presidential Debate

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney met in their second debate Tuesday night, and local political experts and pundits weighed in on their performances in the town hall showdown on Long Island.

Robert Boatright, Associate Professor of Political Science at Clark University:

"The bar was set low for Obama following the first debate, so I think he could have turned in a mediocre performance and been declared a winner. Even apart from that, though, I think he clearly was the winner tonight. He started out weak, almost visibly nervous about the expectation that he would need to go on the attack. The format of the debate favored him, however, and he got a number of questions that worked to his advantage.

"Romney held his own on many of the economic issues, but his ultimate argument appeared to be that he has run businesses in the past, so people should trust him to figure out the details. On a number of questions Romney veered far off topic, and he certainly did not look presidential. The optics of the exchange on Libya made that clear.

"It is quite possible that undecided viewers were turned off by some of the conflict between the two, but in terms of substance Obama managed to show clear differences on taxes, pay equity, immigration, and a host of other issues. This won’t move the polls as much as the first debate did but it should fire up Democrats and could help Obama in the states that matter. It didn’t hurt that Obama got the chance to mention Romney’s 47 percent remark in his closing statement." 

Tim Cahill, former Treasurer of MA and GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™:

"I am scoring this debate as I would a heavyweight championship fight. During the first four rounds (questions) Romney scored well on jobs and taxes, getting his points across strongly and decisively, while Obama pulled out a tie on the issue of energy. Why Romney did not bring up the issues of Solandra and A123 was a mystery. A missed opportunity for Romney. The question on equal pay was weakly answered by both, but I would give the round to Obama. The middle rounds belonged to Romney as he quickly and decisively brought the issues back to the economy where he made his strongest arguments.

"It seemed as if both candidates got tired towards the end and began to stumble over their words and become less and less focused. Romney made a dumb mistake trying to bring a discussion on immigration where he was strong, back to the issue of who has investments in China. He was doing well up to that point but gave Obama an opportunity to come back and score some points.

"The final question gave Romney an opportunity to give a passionate and heartfelt answer as to who is the real 'Mitt Romney.' He answered that he cared about 100% of the American people and got that answer out before Obama got out his points about the 47%. Obama responded passionately as well about what he believed the role of government is and finished strongly and importantly got the last word and tried to paint Romney as someone who cared little for those who depended on government assistance.

"I would score the debate as a draw overall. Obama came out strong and aggressive to counteract his sleepwalking performance from the first debate while at times sounding overly combative. Romney spoke coherently about his abilities to fix the economy and held his own as Obama tried to pin him down. This means that a tight presidential race tightens even more with the outcome likely to be decided by the final debate next week."

Mathew Helman, Communications Director, ProgressMass:

"What I heard from Governor Romney tonight was more of the same tired conservative talking points and misleading attacks that could have come out of Republican Scott Brown's mouth. From diminishing women's health care options to protecting tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, the wrong-headed, 'severely conservative' policies promoted by Mitt Romney and Scott Brown will harm Massachusetts families."

Morgan Marietta, Assistant Professor of Political Science at UMass-Lowell:

"President Obama was clearly more aggressive in the second debate, but without the negative aspects of Biden's more theatrical performance. He was forceful without being overbearing. Romney excelled in the middle portion of the debate focused on economics, cataloguing the administration's failure to live up to its 2008 promises. But the last third of the evening on the less-expected questions of social policy, immigration and guns favored Obama. Overall it will be perceived as a slight Obama victory in contrast the decisive Romney win of the first meeting."

Rob Eno, Editor of Red Mass Group and GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™:

"If the country wasn't hurting so bad, I might actually have felt bad for Barack Obama tonight. He again got completely outclassed by the facts of his four years of failure. Mitt Romney won by merely stating the facts of what four years of Barack Obama has wrought."

Jeff Wilson, former MA Republican State Committeeman:

"Well, it was close, but I award the advantage to President Barack Hussein Obama. That's right: Tonight he surpassed Joe Biden's aggressive October 11 debate performance!"

"America's voters learn from this that Barack Obama 'delegates' and 'leads from behind' whenever possible, but yes indeed, he can cram for an exam when necessary. So we conclude the converse as well: Until push comes to shove, Barack Obama doesn't work too hard. Are you fond of this in a President of the United States of America? Not me, thank you.

"It's not about the two candidates. Both are articulate, as they've shown. It's about how you want the United States to operate. The candidates' debate performances give a clue. Do you prefer an emotional defense (Obama's) of an indefensible record unabashedly canted toward socialism, or do you prefer your facts factual, your principles principled and your liberty liberated (a la Romney)? Better decide. The genius of our system is that the electorate chooses exactly the government they deserve."

Tom Finneran, Former MA Speaker of the House and GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™:

"Now I really dislike the 'town hall' format. Not only is it stilted and contrived, but the moderator allowed herself to be bullied, mostly by the President. Who would have thought that Obama would conduct his own war on women? She was far too deferential as he took enormous liberties with the clock.

"The verdict—Obama won this debate. Romney did OK. Probably not much changes in terms of the undecided voter. That voter will wait until the final debate on Monday night. This is a real horse race now.

"Romney did a superb job in separating himself from George Bush, marketing himself and his proposals, ably criticizing the Bush administration, without giving offense to the former President. Romney’s 'closing' was also impressive, running a litany of problematic issues for the American people, with the refrain 'you don’t have to settle for...'

"For the President, his phrase re the 'sketchy deal' of Romney’s tax plan was the line of the night. It was a great sound bite and it was very well delivered in terms of the looming election. And Romney should never challenge Obama with a question—Obama grabs every micro-second of airtime and Romney is far too courteous to win those tussles. The President was very well prepared and he used every single question to pepper Romney with specific criticisms.

"The President did not miss a single pitch tonight. He stated his case and he stated his criticisms. I don’t know whether he moved the needle his way. Romney’s missed opportunity was huge, i.e.,the Libya question. That ball should have been hit right out of the park and Obama’s righteous indignation should have been demolished for all the nation to see. Romney blew it. Libya is a huge Achilles’ heel for Obama. The entire episode and the evolving storyline are inexcusable."


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