Election 2012: The First Debate

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, head-to-head in the first debate of the year

The last couple of weeks have been unfortunate for Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign: Economic recovery combined with a bad PR day over the so-called “47% remark”  have given incumbent Barack Obama a significant lead in the ten or so states that will decide this election. Even the predictions of some news networks that tonight’s presidential debate could turn around the election seemed implausibly optimistic in the light of the President’s frightening lead, but over the course of one and a half hours this past night, those journalists turned out to be right. Romney came out swinging tonight, giving his campaign just the spark it needs to have a fighting chance at victory this November.

The debate was conventional in many respects; it hit upon key issues such as jobs, education, and healthcare, but it was novel in that it allowed people all over the country to view both candidates’ plans and promises in a more factual light than could ever be seen in the propaganda ads launched by campaigns and PACs. Romney was forced to bite the bullet and respond to Obama’s complaints that his healthcare plan does not cover those with pre-existing conditions; Obama could not avoid being interrogated by over the debt that his administration has accrued. It was politics at its most direct, its most objective, a contest in which the winner gains not only a victory of public support, but also a victory of logic and sensibility.

Both sides were armed with ample statistics; obviously, neither candidate wanted his spending proposals to look bad, but even before the crossfire started, it was clear that Obama was going to end up playing on the defensive. He had almost no way to cover his poor track record with debt and unemployment, yet even though his challenge was the more difficult during the debate, the President failed to pounce upon several opportunities for a counter-attack that the 2008 Obama would have been more likely to tackle.

The aforementioned “47% of all Americans depend on government” remark ties in perfectly with the President’s earlier campaign ads portraying Romney as a job-killing demon, yet Obama failed to expound upon that weakness, wasting a potentially excellent opportunity to convince voters that he is the “hero of the common American” that he has been trying to sell for the past 4 years.

This is not to say that Governor Romney’s successes in the debate were merely due to a situational advantage and the blunders of his opponent. For each minute spent decrying the follies of massive government spending, Romney spent another minute preaching the good word of the free market, of the efficiency of private enterprise, incidentally highlighting the broad fundamental differences between the two candidates’ plans for America. The Republican ticket recognizes that private enterprise is the engine that spurns economic growth, whereas the Obama faction possesses little more than blind, idealistic faith that the bureaucracy, given enough money, can fix anything.

This is an oversimplification of both sides’ stances, but at the same time, it is exactly what they boil down to. Romney can be a wild card at times, but he at least recognizes that a federal government that sits at 25% of our GDP can’t reduce our debt by continually increasing its spending. The Republican ticket proposes a sensible alternative, to eliminate wasteful government spending and do away with stifling regulations that hurt businesses and slow down our economy, and they hit the message home over the course of the debate.

On In-Trade, the country’s leading prediction market, Romney’s chances for election have jumped from as little as 23% last week to over 32% today, and if Romney and Ryan continue what they started today, they could carry the day this November. It’s not clear at this point whether the Republicans will recover its reputation among battleground states, but this debate was a key step towards victory. Integrity and reason have returned to Governor Romney’s campaign to restore the confidence that they will need on Election Day.