In the second Presidential debate, held last night at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, Mitt Romney turned in a strong performance. President Obama was much more aggressive and engaged than he was in the first debate, but came off looking defensive. Several times during the debate he depended on moderator Candy Crowley for a life-line. For her part, Miss Crowley not only broke the format rules by inserting herself into the questioning, but several times she did not give Governor Romney his allotted response time. She appeared to be doing everything she could to ensure that the President turned in a good performance. The bulk of the questions proposed to the candidates were presented by audience members. There were a total of eleven questions that covered economic, foreign policy, immigration and energy policy.
Mitt Romney confronted President Obama directly and several times seem to fluster the President. One such incident was Governor Romney's response to the President's accusation that Mitt Romney would have let GM go bankrupt. Mitt Romney correctly pointed out that GM did ultimately file bankruptcy under the President's leadership. The President's rebut showed a complete lack of understanding of how bankruptcy works. I thought this was an important moment because it was probably the first time many people were aware that GM actually went bankrupt after receiving billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Another issue on which Mr. Romney confronted the President head on was the question of drilling on public lands. The President tried, unsuccessfully in my opinion, to advance the narrative that under his administration drilling leases on public lands had been increased. Governor Romney was able to argue fairly effectively, with the aid of some facts, that the increase in oil production was a result of drilling on private lands, which the President tried to stop.
One of my favorite moments of the debate came when an immigration question was asked by a Hispanic woman named Lorraine, she inadvertently called Mitt Romney President Romney. I thought Mitt Romney could have hammered the President harder on his administration's insistence that the attacks in Benghazi were the result of an anti-Muslim video, when they knew from the start the attacks were pre-planned. But the Governor did a good job of painting the administration's handling of Libya as anything but competent. Mitt Romney also illustrated that the President's charges against him about his overseas investments were ill-informed when the Governor pointed out that the President's pension plan has some of the same investments.
The take away from the debate is that the President had to misrepresent the facts about the economy and foreign policy as well as the positions taken by his Republican challenger. Tactics that may be effective in adds, but are not so when they are challenged by a worthy opponent. I don't think last night's performance by the President is going to make people any more likely to support him in the election, but it may have swayed a few undecideds toward the Romney camp. And Miss Crowley's advocacy aside, I don't think the President turned in the kind of performance he needed to turn the momentum back in his direction. This debate, as well as the first one, illustrated to the voters the competent management and leadership of Mitt Romney, and the utter lack of such qualities in Barrack Obama.