By 8:30 pm, Cheray 101 had students sitting on the stairs. Whether for class or personal interest, students flocked to the largest classrooms on campus to watch President Barack Obama (D) and Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) spar on domestic issues including health care and economics. For those who couldn’t attend, I am going to break down what the candidates had to say over the hour and a half.
The first questions of the debate focused on the economy.
After thanking various people including his wife, Michelle Obama, and institutions, Obama said:
1) That jobs are being created in the private sector and housing is back on the rise. that
2) We don’t need to worry about where we have been, but where we are going.
3) The United States needs to invest in education and training in addition to keeping tuition costs down.
After joking that President Obama couldn’t imagine a more romantic place to spend his 20th wedding anniversary than on stage with him, Romney discussed his plan for solving the recession, which includes:
1) Working on energy independence
2) Opening more trade
3) Improving education
4) Balancing the budget
5) Championing small business
The debating on these questions continued for nearly 20 minutes. Green energy came up as that has been a large initiative of President Obama’s.
“Energy is critical. Production of oil and gas in the US is up. All of the increase in natural gas and oil has been on private lands,” Romney said.
He continued on to say that he supports off-shore drilling in Alaska and the oil pipeline from the north and Canada. He also said he won’t support tax cuts that add to the current deficit.
Obama responded with the argument that when you add up all the loopholes and deductions suggested by Romney, the revenue won’t pay for $5 trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion more in government spending.
“I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan,” Romney responded. “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.”
As for Obama, he said, “His big-bold idea is, never mind,” in reference to the tax cut platform that Romney has been running on for 18 months. He also emphasized that he has lowered taxes on small business 18 times during his presidency.
At the end of question one, Obama had spoken for 10 minutes and 35 seconds while Romney had spoken for 9 minutes and 46 seconds.
There was another 20 minutes of economic discussion, which mainly consisted of each candidate criticizing the other. Romney was a fan of talking about increased debt and raised taxes during the Obama administration. Obama favored attacking Romney’s lack of detail when it came to talking about his plans. Obama demanded details and Romney seemed to only have details about Obama’s failures.
The second part of the debate was centered around entitlements such as social security. For once, the candidates seemed to agree on something:
Individuals 55 years and over don’t have to worry about changes to social security. However, the rest of us do have to worry about the future of the government program.
“Social security is structurally sound,” Obama said elaborating by discussing his grandmother and how social security allowed her to be independent.
“Our seniors depend on these programs,” Romney said. “Neither the president or I are proposing any changes to either social security or Medicare.”
The concept of Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, also came up in the discussion. Obama focused on how Romney’s health care plan differed from his own.
In the debate, it appeared that Romney still supported a government healthcare system that is controlled on a state level. Obama supports a federal government approach to health care.
“The cost of health care is just prohibitive,” Romney said.
Romney said that small businesses are less likely to hire due to the health care reform. In Massachusetts, Romney said “we didn’t raise taxes” and “we didn’t put in place a board to decide on treatment.”
Obama came back, stating, “We used the same advisors and they say it’s the same plan.” Obama said we have two options:
1) “Simply leave a whole bunch of people uninsured”
2) “How do we make the cost of care more effective? And there are ways of doing it.”
Thanks to the debate moderator the health care argument was cut off to address the candidates’ views on the final question: “Do you believe there’s a difference between the two of you as to how you view the mission of the federal government?”
Obama was granted the first answer.
The primary roles of government in his mind are:
1) “To keep the American people safe. As commander-in-chief, it’s something I’ve thought about every day in the Oval Office.”
2) “Create ladders of opportunity.”
These ladders of opportunity come in the form of the free market and improved education systems. Romney then had his chance to express his opinion.
“I love great schools,” Romney said. “The key to great schools is great teachers.”
Romney emphasized that government should not intervene with the American right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, stating 23 million people are out of work and 1 in 6 are living in poverty.
In response, Obama mentioned his Race to the Top program, which rewards local and state school systems who made alterations to their programs.
“The place you put your money is a good indication of where your heart is,” Romney said referencing Obama’s $90 million investment in green energy.
At this point, Obama had spoken for 38 minutes and 45 seconds. Romney was over three minutes behind on speaking time with 35 minutes and 16 seconds.
The rest of the debate continued on with discussion of the legislative gridlock that is currently plaguing the US government.
Romney said, “We need to have leadership that will bring people together.”
He addressed the fact that on his first day he will meet with leaders on both sides of the aisle to get them working on a collaborative basis.
Obama responded with attacks on Romney’s lack of detail once again and said that being a leader is hard because sometimes you have to say no.
“Four years ago I said I wasn’t a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect president,” Obama said, adding that Romney would agree with that.
Obama’s closing statement revisited some of his core missions such as education, energy independence, and domestic job growth.
Romney reemphasized his go-to numbers for reinvesting in Medicare and military spending, declaring that the candidates offer two paths that lead in very different directions.
In post-debate discussion, it seemed that Romney’s conviction in the debate allowed him to shine. Obama’s more reserved demeanor left some feeling disappointed. This was the first of several debates happening this month and there are still many topics to discuss. However, it seems that for now both candidates can make or break their campaigns in these debates. At the very least, we get to be entertained by political scandals, overly dramatized advertising, and debate “zingers.”