Romney had some great moments. He had a few good zingers, at the beginning especially (bring up the "middle class has been buried" line was inspired). He made excellent points on things like the debt not just being an economic issue, but a moral one, and that $90 billion of subsidies to bankrupt energy companies (all but one I believe are now bankrupt, but don't quote me on that) was like 50 years worth of subsidies (my personal favorite line of the night--his later point about that being able to hire 2 million teachers I thought was much weaker). He seemed much more solid and alive than I've ever seen him this campaign.
Romney also had some bad moments. Let's be honest--and hope he gets better before the next debate.
Areas to improve on or watch for next time:
- When Obama lies, don't whine about it ("But... but... but... he LIED about my economic plan!" sounds like a 5 year old, not a Presidential candidate). It's not like it surprises anyone on our side of the fence that Obama lies, and that would have been a great time for a joke, not a whine.
- Be careful not to cross the line between being strong and not letting the media/moderator run roughshod over you and coming across like a jerk. I think Romney came awful close to that line last night, so he needs to watch that carefully. On the plus side, I was pleased to see him actually appear to have grown a pair and was glad he kind of took charge there.
- Do not cave on things like regulations, taxes and getting the federal government out of things it doesn't belong in (like healthcare and education). Romney really worried me with his statement about how the free market can't exist without regulations, and his repeated statements about not actually wanting to lower taxes (he usually meant, I think, to the point where it adds to the deficit, but didn't always add that in) or get rid of regulations or keep parts of Obamacare (which should NOT be a federal issue in the first place) or that the Federal Government should help out with education at a state level (again, so NOT a federal issue) are very troubling.
- Romney must get a better answer on the Obamacare vs. Romneycare issue and stop saying repeal and REPLACE. It should be repeal and repudiate, then repeal all the federal regulations that are causing price spikes in healthcare. Even with Obama barely there, Romney lost that section from what I saw. He has to get stronger on that, and quickly.
- What struck me as odd last night was Romney's attempts to make his positions sounds like Obama's on several issues, and then have Obama be the one trying to draw distinctions. Usually, it is the other way around. I didn't like that approach and hope it is never used again.
Overall, even with areas to improve on, I thought Romney did surprisingly well--certainly much better than I expected, to be perfectly frank. I also really liked the format of this debate as compared to previous Presidential and primary debates.
A brief note now on "independents" and the "audience" for the debate:
- Most people who claim to be "independent" or are registered that way are NOT middle of the road, no matter how much they tell you that. A significant portion always vote for one party or another, they simply don't want to be affiliated with a party for whatever reason. Anyone who says otherwise is probably lying.
- Most Republicans who left the party to become independents didn't do so because they wanted the GOP to be more "liberal", but because it wasn't conservative enough, or pro-liberty enough. Pandering middle of the road-to-left in a general election, therefore, further alienates that voting block--and Romney is going too far left for many of them, from what I've been hearing.
- Debates don't win elections. Most people have their minds made up by now, even if they don't want to admit it. Most people either don't like Romney or Obama, but the "undecideds", based on my experience, are largely looking for a reason to vote for Romney or Obama, not just against the person they don't like. People watch the debates to get a positive reason to vote, and I'm not sure that last night's debate did that for either candidate. Yes, Romney came across strong for the first time, and yes, he obviously won. But he also said some very troublesome things about the free market, taxes, regulations, etc. Wanting to save parts of Obamacare doesn't help him, either. Obama totally not showing up certainly didn't help him.
- Finally, who watches these debates? Honestly, it's largely the wonks and people who have already made up their minds (how many Romneyites or Obamaheads were tweeting/blogging/facebooking/commentating last night? LOTS...). Any arguments that Romney "had to" go left because of the audience is just plain naive. Additionally, no candidate should ever change their message because of the audience. How it is presented, yes--absolutely. But never the content of the message. Romney can't say he want to cut taxes on the campaign trail just to turn around in the debates and say... well, not really, and many other things that sounded to me like contradictions. Flip-flopping, or at least appearing to, will not win you an election because it erodes trust.