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7 Insights from the Third Presidential Debate

Oct 23, 2012, 10:48 am EDT

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney faced off Monday night in their final debate before the November election, with foreign policy as the topic du jour.

Here are seven things voters were able to take away from the candidates’ answers: The neocons must be terrified. Mitt Romney was cleary hypersensitive to the possibility that he might seem like a warmonger. One of the most difficult things that the typically bellicose GOP has had to contend with in running against Obama is his strong record on fighting terrorism. It’s difficult to argue that a Republican administration would actually be tougher on our enemies than Obama has been, without going to war. On several occasions, Bob Schieffer pressed Romney on what he would do differently in respect to Syria and Iran. Romney was unable to articulate a clear difference between his agenda and Obama’s. In fact, what we learned Monday is that Romney actually agrees with Obama on almost every foreign policy issue. As he did in the first debate, Romney used this arena to make a sharp pivot to the center. He was basically calm and reassuring while agreeing with most of what Obama has accomplished overseas in his first term. Obama effectively highlighted a host of Romney flip-flops on various issues, ranging from endorsing a deadline for withdrawal in Afghanistan to whether he would support a mission to get Bin Laden inside of Pakistan. Before this debate, Obama enjoyed strong support in the polls on foreign policy issues. At a minimum, he solidified that position Monday and might have even strengthened it. However, very few voters mention terrorism or foreign policy when asked about the nation’s biggest problems. So, regardless of Obama’s success Monday, it is unlikely to change the minds of many voters in an election that still is about the economy. Defense spending’s fate might not be as grave as previously perceived. Obama responded to a barb from Romney about defense cuts being automatically executed in January, saying, “First of all, the sequester is not something I proposed, it’s something that Congress proposed. It will not happen.” The president’s nod to a more “balanced” budget approach took many off guard, including several Republican leaders, as the cuts were widely thought to be a point of leverage for Obama in any budget negotiations. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been mercilessly attacking Obama over his relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu specifically and Israel more broadly. The Republican Party has tried hard to portray the alliance as one that has chilled and suggest that Obama is not working closely enough with Bibi to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Obama took the lead Monday on talking about Israel positively. He talked so much about how closely his administration has worked with Israel that he did not give Romney a chance to suggest otherwise. Perhaps most surprising about Monday’s conversation was the modicum of attention paid to the Benghazi disaster. Although Bob Schieffer’s first question was about Libya, both candidates simply recited their talking points. Romney did not use the opportunity to attack Obama on the specifics of “who knew what and when.” Perhaps the Romney camp believes the story has run its course, or maybe it was worried about another fiery response from Obama over this matter. Finally, another meme is born. From the election season that brought you InvisibleObama and RomneysBinders, we now have horsebayonette. In response to Romney’s concern that our navy has too few ships compared to 100 years ago, Obama responded that we also have fewer horses and bayonettes. This lovely illustration is now making the rounds online.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

Regardless Who Wins, Taxes Going Up Next Year for 163M

Oct 22, 2012, 7:38 pm EDT

Even with the 2012 presidential election a little more than two weeks away, politicians and pundits have been paying attention to the looming fiscal cliff. The mix of expiring tax cuts and impending spending cuts could have a disastrous impact on unemployment and the markets.

The tax cuts most frequently cited in discussions of the fiscal cliff are the ones that have formed the heart of the disagreement between Republicans and Democrat — the Bush-era tax cuts. Republicans want to keep them all in place, but Democrats want to eliminate the tax cuts for the richest Americans. Often left out of the discussion is another key tax cut set to expire next year: the payroll tax cut.

But a large number of Americans will see their taxes increase if a deal isn’t cut by the end of the year — 163 million, to be exact. And there doesn’t seem to be much motivation by either party to keep this tax break in place. Read 

Hot Topics in Presidential Debate III

Oct 22, 2012, 12:31 pm EDT
Hot Topics in Presidential Debate III

Two months ago, a debate about foreign policy between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was widely considered a layup for the president. After all, he’s the incumbent who ordered the risky and successful raid on Osama bin Laden, has presided over the drawdown of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has shown a level of ferocity against terrorists that has confounded his supporters and detractors alike.

Romney is a wealthy private-equity executive with just four years of governing experience at the state level.

The October surprise of this election, then, is that the race is tied nationally among likely voters (47% to 47%, according to NBC), and Americans have increasingly seen Romney as a plausible commander-in-chief. The task for Obama is to make the debate all about his accomplishments and communicate to the electorate that they can continue to trust him with the nation’s security. Read 

2 Scenarios for Healthcare Stocks After Election Day

Oct 22, 2012, 10:52 am EDT
2 Scenarios for Healthcare Stocks After Election Day

With the presidential race in a dead heat less than three weeks from Election Day, it’s a good time to break down the prognosis for healthcare stocks depending on whether President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney emerges victorious on Nov. 6.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lion’s share of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) in June, Romney has vowed to repeal the landmark healthcare reform law on his “first day in office” if he’s elected. He would first issue an Executive Order granting Obamacare waivers to all 50 states, then work with Congress to “repeal and replace” the law.

If Obama is reelected, the battle for the future of healthcare once again will be waged between the opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, with congressional Republicans likely to add a new refrain to the “repeal and replace” tune: delay. Since the Department of Health & Human Services has so far provided limited guidance to states about health insurance exchanges, ACA opponents will try to push back the law’s 2014 implementation date, as Politico explains. Read 

How the Election Is Changing Halloween

Oct 19, 2012, 3:21 pm EDT

At least something’s injecting humor into the race for the presidency.

An offhand remark by Republican candidate Mitt Romney during a presidential debate has spurred a run on costumes featuring the beloved Sesame Street character Big Bird.

Romney might have said he loves the friendly avian, but the American people love like no other. With Romney saying he’d cut funding for public television — and therefore Public Broadcasting Service, and therefore Sesame Street — the country suddenly was alive with jokes about the candidate and the character. Read 

Bain Capital’s ‘Leveraged Gambling’

Oct 19, 2012, 10:17 am EDT
Bain Capital’s ‘Leveraged Gambling’

Mitt Romney ran Bain Capital from 1984 through 1999. As a result of that experience, the Republican presidential candidate believes he’s the person to fix what ails American business. David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director, thinks otherwise, and he suggests as much in his new book, The Great Deformation: How Crony Capitalism Corrupts Free Markets and Democracy.

With information gathered by The Wall Street Journal, Stockman portrays Bain Capital during the Romney era as “… a dangerous form of leveraged gambling…”

Fast forward to 2012. Read 

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