October 4, 2012

OneVote: The debates


Jessica: Half of the 90-minute debate was set aside for questions dealing with the economy.

President Obama: I believe that the economy works best when middle-class families are getting tax breaks so that they have got some money in their pockets, and those of us who have done extraordinarily well because of this magnificent country that we live in, that we can afford to do a little bit more to make sure we’re not blowing up the deficit.

Mitt Romney: Now I’m concerned that the path that we’re on has just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago; that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more – if you will, trickle-down government – would work. That’s not the right answer for America.

Jessica: The second half of the face-off dealt with other government issues, especially education.

President Obama: What I’ve also said is let’s hire another 100,000 math and science teachers to make sure we maintain our technological lead and our people are skilled and able to succeed.  And hard-pressed states right now can’t all do that.  In fact we’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers over the last several years, and Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do.

Mitt Romney: Well, first, I love great schools.  Massachusetts, our schools are ranked number one of all 50 states.  And the key to great schools, great teachers. So I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers. Every school district, every state should make that decision on their own.

All federal funds – instead of going to the state or to the school district – I’d have go, if you will, to follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their student.

Jessica: The University of Denver location is important since Colorado is considered a crucial swing state with nine electoral votes.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll out this week, found that more than 60% of likely voters say the debates are “not important” or just “somewhat important,” less than a quarter, 22%, consider the debates “extremely important.”

Yet, the way a candidate comes across during a debate has an impact.

In the first televised debate in 1960, John F. Kennedy wore makeup. His opponent, Richard Nixon, did not. TV viewers thought Nixon looked sweaty and uncomfortable, whereas Kennedy appeared relaxed. Those who watched the debate thought Kennedy won, but people who listened to it on the radio thought Nixon was the winner.

Doris Kearns Goodwin: When Nixon was sweating, there was some sense that he was already shifty and there was an anxiety in his soul as well as his body.

Less important than what they say is how they appear. Do they treat their rival with respect? Do they connect with the audience?

Jessica: In 1992, George H.W. Bush was caught, twice, glancing at his watch during a town hall debate. Some interpreted that as him being disengaged and uninterested. To avoid those missteps, today’s candidates spend days preparing with coaches and mock debates. And for the first time, both campaigns got immediate feedback from the social media world, like Twitter and Facebook.

In this first matchup between President Obama and Governor Romney, most experts agree Mitt Romney came out on top.


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