Who Won the Debate: Obama rallies, Romney loses ground but not much


The second presdiential debate is set to take place on Tuesday, October 16 at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY. With just three weeks left until the election, the pressure is on to perform in this debate for both the president and candidate Romney. Questions swirl as clips of the last presdiential debate are played on repeat. Will Obama have a repeat performance? How will Romney do in the more intimate town hall setting? Why can't Candy Crowley ask her own questions? (#LetCandyFree seems to be a hot topic Twitter.) Here are some elements to watch out for in this debate: 

1.  Mix it up.  The topics for the debate are curated carefully so that there will be domestic and foreign policy topics. As we saw in the last vice presendential debate, "foreign policy" actually means U.S. military policy in the Middle East. I doubt any other foreign policy topics will be covered since the third debate will focus exclusively on that aspect. Romney may bring up China and international trade agreements as he did in the first debate as an argument for having a businessman in the White House. It will be key for Obama to do live-fact checking in this debate and to actually respond to every statement made by Romney and not just answering the voters' questions.  

2.  Drop the mic.  The town hall setting can be a dreaded one. It did not bode well for Al Gore as he tried to be assertive against George W. Bush. Awkward to say the least. Questions from these 80 "undecided" voters from Nassau County are pre-screened. Does anyone really think each of these voters is really, completely undecided? Expect some right and left leaning questions to add to the unpredictability of a live and interactive audience. Here's a video of Obama's last town hall debate with John McCain for reference. Romney will be just as aggressive as McCain, if not more and will appear calm with a smile on his face as he does it. It's important for Obama not to hold back without appearing angry, a fine line. During his DNC speech, Obama had a poignant line: "I'm not the candidate anymore, I'm your president." It's a deeper line than upon first read and it will be important for him to remember the meaning behind that statement on Tuesday.

3.  Camera, Camera on the wall...  The camera angles in a town hall always seem to be a challenge for candidates who are not naturally "relaxed." Granted it's an awkward seating position, bar stool in the middle or in front of a group of people. Will they stand up, walk around, sit while answering? What kind of answers requires standing up, closer to audience? What kind requires sitting, looking directly into the camera? No doubt both campaigns have gone over these details that seem painfully minute, but almost always subconciously register in the viewers' minds. Body language is a powerful tool, and equally powerful Achilles heel, in town hall debates. It's also the first time the candidates will able to interact in several years without podiums. How they talk to each other will be important as well.  Obama can seem professorial and cold and Romney can come off as condescending and haughty.  Both camps are watching for these characteristics during the practices.  

4.  Candy Crowley.  As I pointed out last week for the VP debates, moderator Martha Raddatz made a huge difference in the tone, pace, and direction of the debate. In fact, I thought she was the real winner. Crowley may not be able to play as active of a role due to the voter questions, but watch for her to ask follow-ups and the specificity of those follow-ups. As many have pointed to Raddatz' political leanings (to the left) as an influence on her questions to Ryan, I will say that as journalists both Raddatz and Crowley know how to be objective and ask tough, but fair, questions. As a woman, I would hope she will ask questions regarding womens' rights on Tuesday night, a subject that was not discussed in the first debate. 

Broadcast live at 9pm on nearly every network (including PBS!) and online at www.2012presidentialelectionsnews.com for 90 minutes.  

PolicyMic will be covering the vice presidential debate live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.

I'll leave you with this as I write my final analysis: 

And then there was this.  I love the internet.  http://bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com/

10:37PM: Early call: PRESIDENT.  He just brought up the 47% comment, quite possibly the most devastating blow to the Romney campaign.  However, we'll have to see how the Romney camp reacts in the spin room and beyond.  

10:36PM: Fact check on gun control.  Though I don't feel Obama has done enough and it was a big mistake not to bring this up in Denver, so close to the Aurora tragedy, there is this: 

10:33PM: Obama: "Some jobs just won't come back.  They are low skill, low wage. I want high wage, high skill jobs." 

Romney: "Government does not create jobs.  Government does not create jobs."  

10:29PM: Romney talking about investments China and getting foreign investment in the United States leaves him on very shaky ground.  "We need to get more companies to invest in our country." Except for Chinese businesses, they cheat all the time.  

Conversation: "By the way, nothing I'm wearing was made in China.  Or any of my millions in investments.  Or the paper my ads are printed on.  Or the jobs I shipped over there when I closed that company in Kansas."


10:25PM: Several gems from Crowley, doing some live fact-checking on Libya!  

Gun Control is the next subject:  

10:17PM: Obama looking at Romney with a stern, commanding look on his face saying "I'm in charge" and "it's an insult" for Romney to say he doesn't care about diplomats' lives.  It may have come off as too aggressive but Romney did not come back with equal strength.  

10:09PM: Libya.  Benghazi attack question.  Hold your breath.  Obama will have to answer this very carefully.  He needs to say it was great Clinton took the blame but that ultimately it wsa a fault of the Administration and bad intelligence.  "They are my representatives...I know their families."

Romney may just have articulated the question better for Obama than he did himself.  

10:05PM: Crowley wants to go back to 'self-deportation' comments from the Republican primaries that Obama pointed out.  Romney: No, I want to go to something else.  Eventually comes back to answer it.  Sounds disrespectful to Crowley.  

Romney seems to be unaware that other people are in the audience waiting.  goes off topic asking, "Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?" Obama: "Well, mine's not as big as yours so it doesn't take as long." 

Both crossing into each other's pre-designated areas!! 

10:03PM: Obama: "It's very hard for Congressmen to support [immigration reform] when their standard bearer doesn't support it." 

9:59PM: Romeny answering on immigration.  He says 'kids should have a pathway' to become citizens.  So, why didn't he support the Dream Act?  Calls Obama out for not putting forth policy in first year.  


9:52PM: On a personal note, my background is in trade operations and I am really loving this part of the debate in the wonkiest way possible. 

Voter to Obama: What have you done for me lately?  Basically the perfect set up for laundry list of accomplishments. 

"Who's promises are going to be more likely to help you?"

Romney to Voter: "I think you know better." 

9:49PM: Romney asked how he would be different than that other forgotten Republican President, George W. Bush.  

Obama: "Governor you're the last person who will be tough on China." Obama: "Governor you're the last person who will be tough on China." 



9:45PM: Candy Crowley schooling Romeny on how the debates process work.  

Romney outright lying about his policy on womens' reproductive rights and access to birth control.  

9:44PM: Women's health care and reproductive rights brought into the fray by Obama.  "I'll get back to you" is not the advocacy women need in any economy."

9:37PM: Romney looking uncomfortable with walking around and sitting.  He may be tiring or out of sorts.  

Obama is coming off very strong on womens' rights issues.  "We fixed that" regarding Lily Ledbetter Act.  He personalized it very well.  Also, relating it to broader education reforms, expanding Pell grants by using $60 million set to go to banks.  

Romney answering on pay equity for women.  "We took a concerted effort to find women who are qualified to serve in our [Massachusetts] cabinet."  "We need to have a flexible schedule for women." 

9:34PM: BIG BIRD!!  Obama puts Romeny plan in terms of investing in a 'sketchy deal' because he won't say how exactly he will pay for it.  

Crowley doing a great job curating the follow-ups and answers!  Being assertive but not aggressive.  

9:32PM: China is brought up.  Anyone ask Romney how much investment he has in China?  Also, "I know why jobs come and why jobs go." Bad answer, given is Bain experience.  


9:28PM: Romney says he will under no circumstances decrease what upper income people are paying and he will not raise taxes on middle class.

9:27PM: Does Romney realize most of us who make less than $200K don't have dividends, interests on capital gains, and large mutual funds? Doesn't really help me to have a tax cut on that stuff.  


9:24PM: YES.  Tax deductions question!! Will Romney and Obama give real specifics? 

9:23PM: Candy Crowley is doing her level best to control the candidates' time, but she is realizing she needs to be more assertive with Romney.  It doesn't bode well for him to keep asking to answer more and more.  

9:12PM: Good question about gas prices!  President explaining that Administration has "lowered oil imports to lowest level in 15 years"  Touting using natural gas in an environmentlly-friendly way.  We have 'clean energy' and 'tomorrow' AND '10 years from now'  Jeremy will get a job because of those long-term investments.  

Romney: Oil production is down 14% on federal land.  Gas production down 9%.  I'm not sure people will understand this argument.  "This has not been Mr. Oil, Mr. Gas, Mr. Coal" 


9:08PM: Crowley asks a great follow-up about what candidates will do about long-term unemployed.  

Obama doing well on the splitscreen. 

9:06PM: Obama doesn't go for anecdotal answer like Romney.  Puts forth list in how to solve the millenial/graduate problem. 

1. American Jobs

2. Education - community college.

3. Energy control (soalr, wind, biofuels) 

4. Ask the rich to pay a little more. 

5. Infrastructure

9:05PM: "I want to keep our Pell Grant program going." It's unacceptable for you not to have a job.  I know how to change that.  It's not going to be like the last 4 years.  Promising to get Jeremy a job, but not saying exactly how he will create all those jobs.  

9:03PM: First time voter: how will I support myself after I graduate?  First question on student loans, millenials should pay attention.  

9:00PM: And so it begins...

9:00PM: Liberal media bias? 

8:55PM: Each candidate has a 'pre-designated area' in which they are allowed to MOVE.  The areas cannot overlap. There will be a dance-off at the end.  


8:45PM: The audience is given their rules.  I'm glad I'm not in the audience.  THEY went to rehearsal with Candy Crowley as well.  Their mics will be cut off so no follow-ups allowed.  Wow. 

8:41PM: I will be very disappointed if the 47% comments are not brought up and/or explained.  

8:37PM: Scroll down below for the earlier update regarding the possible heavy burden Hilary Clinton may have lifted off of the President's shoulders for tonight.  Here's is Susan Rice blaming shaky intelligence.

John Hudson of the Atlantic states: "Voters can forgive security mistakes, the world is a dangerous place, but knowingly misleading the public about what transpired is another story"  

8:26PM: With great power comes great money...I mean, responsibility.  Yeah, something like that.  Mo' Money, mo' problems? When in doubt, quote Biggie.  

To wit, there is a disgusting amount of money in this election.  Thank you Supreme Court and Citizens United.  That money means nothing if the right questions aren't asked tonight and next Monday.  

8:00PM: [I do not agree with the cartoon below, but it's worth an examination.] And to balance, Romney may be the Verbal Kint/trickster of this election, but Obama has been more militarily aggressive than any of his supporters thought he would be.  How will he explain it if asked about drones? No doubt his camp has prepared him well.  The focus for the President will have to be his confidence in his record for women, the middle class, the poor.  

7:53PM: From an earlier conversation: "Mitt Romney is like the Verbal Kint of this election.  We need to be careful.  If you have watched The Usual Suspects (an amazing movie), you know to what that refers.  If you haven't watched it, go do it before November 6." 

7:47PM: I'm as amped up as people watching the Hunger Games...just waiting for a genetically modified wolf who looks like Dick Cheney to try and eat one of the candidates.  Ok, maybe not....Maybe Karl Rove.  

7:25PM: As a candidate, she should be IN the debate, but at least she should be able to WATCH it in person.  But. no, Jill Stein - the only female candidate - gets to deal with the police, outside, away from the platform to challenge the mainstream candidates to really benefit all of us in the form of more comprehensive policy.  

7:14PM: I'm not sure what it is these 70-80 'undecided' voters are waiting for in this election, but hopefully they will get their answers tonight or in the next two weeks.  

6:59PM: Did you know, Navrathri started last night?  It's the Hindu holiday celebrating the power and strength of the female goddesses.  I wonder what women will think of the debates tonight and their power.  

6:54PM: And then there's this gem: 

6:42PM: Courtesy of The Atlantic, take a look at this hilarious, illustrative gif.  Obama will have to be careful to articulate his plan well too, though. 

6:33PM: On a more serious note, reports coming in that Romney will tout his bipartisan record.  Oh wait, did I say more serious?!  HA.  Well, Romney's healthcare achievement is something to brag about.  Pretty much every Massachusetts child has healthcare, a amazing feat.  However, can the campaign that ran away from that for the past 2 years really swing back to it tonight?  What other issues will be brought up? Here's a video Obama for America has rolled out.   Obama will have to be careful though, Romney will bring up Congressional record the past 3.5 years.  He will have to become the Secretary of Explaining Stuff this time around. 

5:47PM: Joe Biden, ever the attack dog.   

5:37PM: This is why I advocate for female moderators and I think Crowley will live up to the high expectations placed on her: 

5:19PM: Some pre-debate perspective.  One thing I can predict...a changing of positions and the calling out of those changes.  Or at least, I hope.  

4:40PM: For reference here is my take on Romney's last speech which contained significant points, from the RNC, of foreign policy should they come up tonight or next week.  Please note my comment below regarding foreign policy attitudes.  

3:40PM: The latest polls from Real Clear politics

10:10PM: For some reason, many Americans do not realize foreign policy is <gasp> complicated!  It is actually all right for matters of national security and diplomatic relationships to be complicated.  Not everything has to be as simple as Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Conservative, etc.  

It's a little ridiculous to think the diplomat security buck stops with Secretary Clinton, but she has just declared she accepts responsibility for the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.  I'm not so sure this isn't a politicizing of Ambassador Stevens' death, but it is far less crass than the Romney campaign's response. She's accepting responsibility, as someone in the administration needed to do weeks ago. It will be up to Obama to articulate it well tomorrow night. Libya will certainly be on the agenda, perhaps not from the audience, but one of the candidates will bring it up.  Clinton may have just saved a huge burden for Obama tomorrow night....

8:16PM: Be your own fact checker Tuesday night, courtesy of AP! As they note, remember, "Shades of mistruth are more common than whoppers."