Debating Health Care and the Economy
First and foremost, this was a difficult debate to watch.
The format made for a lot of interruptions and the topics were generally ones that called for all sorts of numbers that couldn’t be verified by most people watching at home. By the time the fact-checkers get to all of these claims and counter-claims, no will remember what was said or by whom.
My sense is that Romney will be proclaimed the winner but that if you knew the debate would focus mainly on the state of the economy, you might have proclaimed him the winner before anyone even said anything. For me, there were still a lot of general statements from Romney — like that he’ll help small businesses by restoring America’s vitality — even as he made mention of all sorts of numbers and Obama noted this a few times. But those platitudes might actually work out for him when it comes to the economy because they actually sound better than the plan he seems to have, which involves both balancing the budget and spending a ton of money on things like tax cuts and the military.
One thing is clear: It’s far easier for the challenger to be aggressive when discussing the incumbent’s signature law (which doesn’t exactly enjoy universal popularity and isn’t particularly well understood). And, of course, with an economy that’s growing very slowly, it’s easier to attack the sitting president than to be the sitting president.
It will be interesting to see whether the Obama campaign changes course for the next debate, whether getting away from the economy a bit will be sufficient, or whether not making mistakes is really the main aim since mediocre debate performances don’t necessarily matter a whole lot at the polls.
My live-blog of the debate — in all of its Madisonian glory — is here, for those who missed it. Next time, Maybe Jefferson?