by Wendy Simmons | October 17, 2012 8:49 am
President Barack Obama: A
The stakes couldn’t have been higher for President Obama coming into the second presidential debate. After his dismal performance two weeks ago, Obama had essentially lost his lead in the national polls and was giving up ground in the the swing states.
Some commentators thought the “town hall” format would work against the president, who needed to show some aggression and attack Mitt Romney. Those predictions were wrong. Obama had no problem interrupting and correcting Romney. He was sharp, focused and clearly relishing the opportunity to hit back tonight.
Although much of the import of these debates is theatrical, Obama was able to correct and clarify several major substantive issues that weren’t addressed during the last round.
Mitt Romney: B
The GOP contender gave a surprisingly strong performance during the first debate but merely met the bar this time around. He seemed thrown by the newly aggressive Obama but managed to keep his footing.
Much of what Romney said was neither new nor substantive. He continued to underscore the weak economy and hammer home his magical tax math, while continuing to deny Obama and the electorate any specifics about that plan.
In response to the question about women in the workforce, Romney answered with his own experience of working with women while governing Massachusetts and while he was at Bain Capital. In fact, a meme was born tonight in Romney’s claim that he had “binders full of women” to choose from when selecting member of his cabinet in Massachusetts (www.twitter.com/Romneybinders). This answer, while touching, didn’t address any policy or legislative solution to gender equality in the workplace.
Candy Crowley: B+
Tuesday night’s moderator was under a lot of fire earlier in the day for claiming that she would play an active role in refereeing tonight’s debate. As it turned out, she needed to — and could have been even more aggressive. Romney and Obama were interrupting each other, talking over one another and exceeding their allotted time. Crowley attempted to keep them on point but often let the exchanges between the two men get a bit out of hand.
I give Crowley high marks for choosing good questions from this audience of undecided voters. They covered a lot of territory, from taxes to gun control to Libya to gender equality.
The Town Hall Questioners: A
The questions brought to this debate from ordinary voters — not members of the professional chattering class — were far superior to any I have heard in previous debates or interviews. Most important, they were specific.
Unfortunately neither Obama nor Romney gave the short answers that could have sufficed for these questions, but the spirit and intent of the questioners were admirable.
The best question of the night by far, posed to Governor Romney: “How would your presidency differ from the previous Republican president?” Romney had little to say in response that question. Perhaps that says it all.
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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