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The 3 Hot-Button Issues Not Covered at the Presidential Debates

These topics failed to make it into the discussion


The three presidential debates have all been held, and now the candidates are off on a mad dash to visit every swing state, some several times, before the general election on Nov. 6. Mitt Romney used a strong performance in the first debate to slingshot himself back into the presidential race, and Barack Obama took on a stronger tone in the following debates to try and blunt Romney’s momentum.

During the debates, the candidates discussed a variety of issues: the economy, the middle class, the attacks in Libya, and Obama’s health care plan, among others, saw significant discussion. Perhaps just as significant, though, were the issues that were not discussed during the debates. In particular, three hot-button issues didn’t get brought up at all during the debates.

Gay Marriage

In May, Obama publicly expressed support for gay marriage, a few days after Joe Biden had done the same. The move brought Obama praise from gay rights groups, condemnation from socially conservative groups, and accusations from Romney that Obama had flip-flopped on the issue. It also helped Obama pull in $9 million, at a time when his campaign was getting beaten convincingly by Romney in fundraising.

Since that announcement, gay rights issues seem have to shifted from the federal level to the corporate and state level. Many corporations have, quietly and not-so-quietly, begun supporting same-sex marriage. This came even as Chick-fil-A became the center of a controversy revolving around its president’s opposition to gay marriage. Opponents of gay marriage flocked to Chick-fil-A to show support, gay marriage supporters called for a boycott, and a couple of Democratic mayors went a little too far in criticizing the company. Eventually, the company publicly announced it would no longer donate to groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage faces its largest stakes not at the federal level, but at the state level, where four states — Maryland, Minnesota, Maine and Washington — face referendums on legalizing same sex marriage. It is in these states, and not between Obama and Romney, that the primary battle will be fought this election.

Climate Change

Not once were the words “climate change” uttered during the debates. That hasn’t happened since 1984. Of course, that could be because fewer than half of all Americans believe that human activity contributes to global warming.

Even Obama, who said in June 2008 after wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination, “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” hasn’t spoken much of climate change lately. It’s an argument that would seem to be easy to make this year, when 3,100 temperature records were broken in June and much of the nation was hit by a drought that damaged crops and promises higher food prices.

Of course, Obama still supports green energy and green jobs, while Romney wants to increase offshore drilling, build the Keystone XL pipeline, and reduce regulation. There is a policy difference, but both men refuse to discuss the looming cloud of climate change.


Arguably the tipping point that sent the United States into the great recession was the collapse of the housing market. And while housing did get mentioned once in the first debate, it wasn’t tied at all to the word “foreclosure.” Foreclosed homes and underwater mortgages are still a drag on our economy, even as unemployment slowly decreases and the major market indexes are up from a year ago.

In fact, some argue the problem facing the housing market now is not the same as the one that caused the collapse. There may not be enough houses being built, which is indicative of people not having the money to spend on new construction. It also limits the number of construction jobs being created.

It seems odd that Romney would not attack the president for not doing more to boost the housing market, but perhaps he realizes that it’s a complex issue that might be out of even the president’s hands to fix. Regardless, foreclosed homes were conspicuous in their absence from the debates.

— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor

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

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