Governor Mitt Romney was the clear winner of the October 3rd Presidential Debate. He was much more energetic and focused, while Obama seemed tired and impersonal. Throughout the debate, Romney kept up strong attacks on Obama and his policies, but Obama did not retaliate. Obama missed opportunities and was forced to play defense through the discussion.
Obama also did not seem to look the part during the debate. As shown by Richard Nixon and John Kennedy’s first debate in 1960, looks do matter. Romney appeared relaxed, and attempted to engage the President by focusing on him while answering each question. Obama, on the other hand, merely glanced at Romney, instead looking mainly at the moderator or at the camera. While Romney looked as though he was pushing the conversation, Obama merely looked irritated.
In addition to appearing visually confident, Romney’s statements were more passionate and seemed to speak directly to undecided voters. He seemed to carry a different, more pragmatic and moderate tone, which was a bit of a departure from his performance in debates during the Republican primary.
“Regulation is essential,” Romney said during the first section of the debate. “You can’t have a free market work without regulation… You have to have regulation so that you can have the economy work. Every free economy has regulation. At the same time regulation can become excessive, it can become out of date.”
Specifically regarding taxes, Romney said, “I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and reduce the revenues going to the government. My number one principle is there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. But I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans.”
Moving on to health care, Romney then clarified his plan after coming under fire from Obama.
“Number one, preexisting conditions are covered under my plan. Number two, young people are able to stay on their family plan. That’s already offered in the private marketplace. You don’t have to have the government mandate that for that to occur. […] The key task we have in health care is to get the cost down so it’s more affordable for families.”
Fact checkers were quick to point out some of the fallacies in these statements and others during the debate, having to look no further than Romney’s own website for evidence. For instance, Romney’s healthcare plan would not necessarily cover all those with preexisting conditions. Such people would only be protected from denial of insurance if they have maintained previous health insurance coverage.
Even though some may be exaggerated or inaccurate, these statements create a much more moderate picture of Mitt Romney than what his previous debate performances, his Vice-Presidential pick of Paul Ryan, and his comments about 47% of Americans being dependent on government suggest. On top of that, there is the Mitt Romney who served as the Governor of Massachusetts who was pro-choice, committed to renewable energy, and created a health care plan remarkably similar to Obamacare.
So which is the real Mitt Romney? Which one is going to lead our country if elected? Perhaps this uncertainty alone is cause for doubt. A candidate should have the responsibility to at least be honest about the vision he has for the country. Mitt Romney, however, seems to be torn between two: a staunch conservative in both fiscal and social values, and a more pragmatic, compromise driven moderate. Mitt Romney’s only platform of which we can be sure is that he is not Obama. His relentless attacks on Obama but continued lack of specificity and commitment to details in his own plan, show that his ultimate message is clear. If you would rather anyone other than President Barack Obama, look no further. And for many, this is reason enough to give Romney their vote.
But this “Obama or Not” approach to the election is problematic, especially for moderate Republican or Independent voters who voted for Obama in 2008. While disappointed with Obama’s lack of progress, they are turned off by Mitt Romney’s attempt to appeal to the conservative base by appearing ultra-conservative in the Republican primary and are now unsure as to what they are voting for with Romney. Yes, Obama promised to do a lot more than he actually accomplished.  Like speaking to cranky children, upset that they broke their favorite toy, Obama essentially promised to build them a new, better, and more efficient toy from the ground up. He ended up getting only about half way there. The American people can now either let him try to finish the work he started, or try out the Mitt Romney. While he appears new, shiny, and impeccably packaged, how can the American people be sure that he isn’t cheaply made in China and will fall apart in a week or two?
Romney presents himself as an alternative to Obama, but does not define what this alternative is. His current turn to the middle in the recent debate only further illustrates this point.
By Elena Giannella