Presidential Debate 2012: Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney. Were The Real Issues Covered?

Preparations for the recent debates were made almost a year in advance, by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Both Democrat and Republican campaigns executed a memorandum of understanding governing technical and administrative details of the debate. The agreement had described the role of the debate moderator, rules applicable to each debate, staging and seating arrangements, ticket distribution and was signed by Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsberg, who are general counsel of the Obama and Romney campaigns, respectively. The very first U.S. presidential debate of 2012 took place on October 3, 2012 at the University of Denver located in Denver, Colorado between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney, moderated by news anchor Jim Lehrer. The main topic was domestic policy. The general consensus was that Romney had done better in the debate and he received a positive boost in the polls for his performance. The first debate between President Obama and former Governor Romney focused on domestic policy and was broken down into six 15 minute segments. If you missed any of the presidential debates so far on TV you can watch them in full after the jump…

According to the agreement, by both candidates would have no opening statement. Both candidates had to speak in front of a podium on stage. Other than applause at the beginning and end of the debate, there was no audience participation allowed. The mini-segments were on the current economy, job creation, the federal deficit, entitlements and differences between the candidates on Social Security, health care, the Affordable Care Act, the main role and mission of the federal government of the United States, governing in a presidential system and dealing with political gridlock. Over 67 million Americans watched the debate, making it the most widely viewed first presidential debate in 32 years. The primary critiques of Obama’s performance were that he looked detached; seldom addressed his opponent directly; and was often looking down while Romney was speaking. Several independent fact checkers noted that there were a number of factual discrepancies found in various statements made by both Obama and Romney during the heated debate. 

Jim Lehrer’s performance as debate moderator was also widely criticized for frequently allowing each of the candidates to speak well over their given time limits. Lehrer defended his performance saying, “I’ve always said this and finally I had a chance to demonstrate it: The moderator should be seen little and heard even less. It is up to the candidates to ask the follow up questions and challenge one another.” That’s true, but its the moderators responsibility to control the atmosphere during the debate. Unlike most of the mainstream media, Romney and Obama both made favorable remarks about Lehrer and his moderating skills. Of course…

On October 11, 2012, the first and only debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan focused mainly on domestic and foreign policy, and was broken down into nine 10 minute segments. The foreign policy segments included questions on the attack on the American Consulate in Libya, Iran, the volatile civil war in Syria and Afghanistan. The domestic policy segments included questions on health care, abortion, the national debt, Social Security, Medicare and taxes. Much of the debate analysis indicated that though Biden and Ryan had both performed adequately and with lots of emotion. However, Biden’s performance helped to slow the momentum of the Romney campaign following the preceding presidential debate. The debate was watched by over 51 million people making it the third most watched vice presidential debate behind only 1984 (57 million) and 2008 (70 million).

On October 16, 2012, the second U.S. presidential debate of 2012 took place at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York between President Obama and Governor Romney, moderated by news anchor Candy Crowley. The debate was organized in a town meeting format by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The second debate dealt primarily with domestic affairs, but, unlike the first debate, did include some segues into foreign policy. Following a town hall meeting format, with a group of non-committed voters asking questions to the candidates, after which the moderator would ask follow-up questions. Many topics discussed included tax rates, unemployment, job creation, the national debt, energy and energy independence, women’s rights, both legal and illegal immigration and the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama’s performance was compared favorably to his performance in the first debate, which he was widely perceived to have lost badly.

Analysts characterized Obama as more assertive and “tough” in the second debate. Romney was perceived to have not done as well as his previous performance, missing several opportunities to rebut Obama, but it also appeared that Romney was being cut off a lot by Obama and the debate moderator. Throughout the debate Romney also asked Obama some serious questions putting him on the spot and in an embarrassing position, he did not appear very fond of. Unfortunately, Romney’s comment that as governor of Massachusetts he solicited “binders full of women” qualified to serve in his administration, was the source of some internet humor and rage against him.

Romney’s comment has turned into a major smear campaign against him followed by several political attacks in the war against “Women’s Rights.” That also seems to be constantly exploited by Democrats in general and the main focus of President Obama’s current administration. Polls conducted by CBS, CNN and Reuters/Ipsos found a slight plurality felt that Obama had done better than Romney, with many calling the debate a draw. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and vice-presidential candidate Cheri Honkala were arrested for disorderly conduct at the debate hall, while attempting to enter the hall in protest of the exclusion of the lesser known candidates from the debate. That doesn’t look to good for their personal records.

The third and final presidential debate was held on October 22, 2012 and was located in Boca Raton, Florida at Lynn University. The debate was moderated by CBS’s Bob Schieffer, with the format of the third debate to mirror the first debate, except with both candidates focusing on foreign policy rather than domestic policy. Topics discussed included the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab Spring, especially the Syrian civil war, relations with Israel, relations with Pakistan, the War on Terror, the size and scope of the U.S. military, and relations and trade with China, as well as the rise of that nation. Although the debate was supposed to strictly concern foreign policy, the candidates did manage to fit a few domestic policy issues amongst other repeated topics from previous debates, such as job creation, the federal deficit and education into the discussion. Did you watch the debates? What about the protest on Twitter with a Twitter Bomb regarding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), What are your thoughts on the past 4 debates so far? Who are you more in favor for president and why? Please share your thoughts, opinions and comments below…

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