October 4, 2012
Last night saw the first of a series of US Presidential debates between Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Deciding who the winner is in any political debate is not exactly straightforward, but speaking objectively, Romney certainly put in the most convincing performance by generally coming across as more enthusiastic and prepared. What was clear about this debate, particularly for the neutrals and swinging voters among us, was that Americans are genuinely being presented with a clear choice in November. That popular observation that US politics is becoming so centralised that one cannot tell the difference between Democrat and Republican anymore, just isn’t ringing true this time around.
This was clear from the very start. Round one of the debates focused on Domestic issues, with questions on jobs, the deficit, healthcare and the role of government on the table. Unsurprisingly, the two men differed in their opinions about what is causing America’s slow recovery from one of the deepest recessions this side of the Second World War. Obama was keen to point out that the problems were started by the Bush administration, although he was careful not to use his predecessor’s name directly. There was one occasion where the Governor did acknowledge the role that Bush had played in building the US deficit, but decided to focus more on the fact that Obama has had four years in which to bring it down, and has failed.
The candidates genuinely disagree about the methods with which to eliminate the federal debt, and this is where we got our first good old fashioned Left/Right mini-debate. Obama prefers a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts, asking the top earners in America to pay a little more in order to protect the programs that ordinary Americans depend upon. Governor Romney would bring down the deficit predominantly through spending cuts. In a debate that focused so heavily on sticking up for the middle class, one would assume that Obama’s plan would have come across as the most sensible. In fact, Romney did an excellent job of explaining why raising taxes on the top 3% of business in America actually punishes the firms that hire the majority of Americans, thus threatening jobs at a time of weak economic recovery. Obama clearly wanted to use this section of the debate to portray Romney as a President for the very wealthy, and the incumbent seemed a tad shaken when his plan didn’t appear to follow through. It was always going to be crucial for Romney to come across as the more ‘pro-business’ candidate in this debate, and on the point of tax revenue, he seemed to do this with ease. Read more of this post