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Second Presidential Debate: Live Coverage & Commentary

by George Landrith

Post Debate Analysis:  Obama improved from the first debate, but he still lost tonight. CBS’s post debate poll said that Romney won 2 to 1. Obama’s biggest problem was that the facts are not on his side. For example, on unemployment, food stamps, reduced household incomes, higher food prices, and more costly gasoline and energy Obama has a real problem. There is not smooth talking that will fix those problems.

On the Libya question, Obama acted like he identified the attack as terrorism on the first day. But that was disingenuous and factually wrong. He did not identify the attack in Benghazi as a terrorist attack. He simply used the word “terrorism” generally in his remarks. But Obama did not label the attack a terrorist attack. And in several interviews that followed, Obama specifically refused to call it a terrorist attack even when asked point blank. Moreover, for the following two or three weeks, Obama spoke of the attack being caused by protestors who were angry about a youtube video. When the caskets were only a few feet from him at Andrews Joint Base, he spoke about the movie and angry protestors. But there were no protestors and no movie. Obama spoke to the UN and talked about the movie ad nauseam and blamed angry protestors — something he knew was false when he said.  Obama’s response tonight ignored these facts. He’s gotten away with this because the media has been in the tank for him. That is why they attacked Romney after the attacks, but refused to ask Obama any serious or probing questions.

Obama was angry and thin-skinned and kept demanding more time even though he got more time than Romney. That made him look small and petty. He also interrupted Romney when Romney was landing big rhetorical punches and once even suggested again that the moderator move one to another topic. For the life of me, I cannot understand why you would telegraph that you’re getting a beat down by asking for help from the moderator.

Obama probably stopped the bleeding of his campaign because he showed up. His base will be happy. But Obama didn’t give independents or women or other groups that have been flocking to Romney any reason to reverse course. Obama will likely continue a slowly lose support. He didn’t look presidential and he didn’t give voters any reason to believe that the next four years will be any different from the last four years. That was the big failure of Obama’s performance.

Romney accomplished what he needed to — he looked presidential. He showed himself to be a reasonable, fair-minded and capable leader. Obama spent $150 million portraying Romney as someone very different. Romney again proved none of that was true. On energy, job creation, economic growth, tax reform, and foreign policy, Mitt Romney came across as someone who knew the facts and knew what to do. Thus, while a closer debate than before, Romney won because he accomplished what he needed to.

Obama got more than 3 minutes more of talking time than Romney. Obama looked small carping several times about how he wasn’t getting enough time and he looked silly using equal time fears as an excuse to try to cut off Romney — particularly since Obama got a lot more time. But that wasn’t all, in 8 out of 11 questions, the moderator gave Obama the last word. Even when Obama started first, the moderator gave him the last word numerous times. There simply is no excuse for not even observing the obvious points of fairness. In each debate so far, the Democrats have received more talk time. That is significant. None of the moderators have done a good job and each showcased their liberal bias. But tonight’s moderator, Candy Crowely, was particularly bad. In fact, it was the worst performance I’ve ever witnessed. She overtly tried to help Obama out of trouble on the Libya question. To make matters worse, she was factually incorrect in the aide she tried to render. On another occasion she tried to put words in Romney’s mouth. And she interrupted Romney far more than Obama. This is what happens when you let committed, card carrying liberals run every debate. This moderator is the one who called Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan for Vice President a presidential ticket with a “death wish.” So much for fair and balanced. In the future, the GOP candidate should say right up front that there will be no debates unless the moderators are actually serious journalists who can leave their personal politics at the door.

There were some painfully stupid questions. For example, with high unemployment, shrinking household incomes, exploding food stamp rolls, the Middle East in flames, and a growing cover-up regarding what is becoming known as the “Benghazi Affair,” there was only one question on foreign policy and and an extensive section on gun control which doesn’t even register as an important issue in 2012. But the funniest and stupidest question of the night was the one giving Mitt Romney two minutes to explain how he was different from George W. Bush and then giving Barack Obama two minutes ostensibly to explain how he was different from Bush. Of course, it was just two or three minutes of smearing Bush and Romney. If the question were remotely close to fair, it would have asked Obama to explain how he is different from Jimmy Carter. The moderator picked some real stupid questions and they revealed more than a lack of intellectual rigor, they revealed a clear bias.

Independent Pollster Frank Luntz conducted a focus group comprised undecided voters and a healthy dose of former Obama voters. After the debate, a strong majority of the focus group supported Romney. The focus group members used the following words to describe Romney:  Forceful, compassionate, presidential, confident, realistic, enthusiastic, our next president, dynamo, and winner. Another focus group member who had voted for Obama in 2008, said “[Obama has] lied about everything. He lied to get elected in 2008, that’s why I voted for him. I bought his bull. And he’s lied about everything, he hasn’t come through on anything. And he’s been bullshitting the public.” Ouch!  And where was the guy who was supposed to bleep that word?

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10:40  Obama’s final response was an improvement from the bumbling statement he made in Denver. However, Obama’s attempt to sound like a supporter of free markets, low taxes, less regulation, etc. was a bit silly. The man has a record the last four years. He can’t simply write off the past four years.

10:38  Romney rocked the last question on how the Obama campaign had misrepresented his views and him personally. He transitioned to a discussion of creating jobs and trying to help everyone. We can’t afford four more years like the last four years. Ouch.

10:34  Obama’s answer was, as has been the case all evening, only partially true and largely misleading. Under current law, corporate profits are taxed in the country where they are earned and then a second time when the money is brought back to the United States. So right now there are hundreds of billions of dollars that could come back to America but haven’t been because it will be taxed twice. That money could be used to build factories and create jobs here. But now it is abroad. Romney wants to eliminate this double taxation problem so that companies will bring the money back to America rather than keeping it abroad. Obama misled on this issue.

10:30  Romney’s discussion of getting more people hired and creating jobs and increasing incomes is a winner. He pointed out that people move off shore because we have the highest corporate taxes on the planet. He wants to fix that and reduce the regulatory burdens so that companies want to stay here and find it advantageous. This is an answer which will appeal to mainstream voters.

10:26  The moderator tried to put words in Romney’s mouth on the gun question and it was overtly dishonest and unfair. She should ask question and even followup questions. But she should not try to summarize the answer in a snarky way.  Obama’s discussion of teachers and guns was very puzzling. He looked weak as he tailed off at the end of it and the moderator pointed out that it was a question on assault weapons.

10:22  Romney’s answer that he doesn’t favor outlawing more guns and points out that automatic weapons are already illegal. That is factually correct and is a mainstream approach. Romney’s discussion of trying to strengthen families and marriages was a good response to crime and violence. Values matter. Romney bringing up fast and furious is quite smart and makes it clear that Obama isn’t serious about crime.

10:20  Obama’s answer on guns will please his base. But for blue collar folks in Ohio and Pennsylvania won’t be excited about that.

10:17  Romney hits Obama on the 14 days it took him to admit that it wasn’t a mob responding to a movie. That is 100% correct. Obama’s feigned indignation was a ploy and reveals that he knows he is on the ropes and taking a pounding on the issue. Moderator tried to stop the beating with some aid to Obama, but she was wrong factually. It was a disgraceful moment for a moderator.

10:15  Romney went too easy on Obama on this issue. Obama and his administration lied. But he did hit him hard for leaving town for political events and fundraisers. The mess is the Middle East is worse, not better — Syria, Egypt, Libya, etc. The apology tour and leading from behind are to blame. Romney should have hit harder, but he hit pretty darn hard and told the truth. Obama has been avoiding the fundamental question of why he and others were telling people it was an angry protest over a youtube video. Some will say that Obama didn’t have an apology tour. But papers in Europe used those words to describe his speeches overseas. So it isn’t an invention of the GOP or Romney. The Europeans remarked how surprising it was that a sitting president would effectively apologize for and criticize America.

10:12  Obama’s answer on Benghazi didn’t answer the question. He avoided the issue. Zero points. He spent several weeks lying about what happened in Libya. Yes, lying. He knew the truth, but chose to play games with the truth and to lie about it.

10:09  Obama just promised to do in his next term what he didn’t do in his first term — work on immigration reform. Really? That passes for a serious answer from a man who has been president for the past four years?? His first two years, he had huge majorities in both houses of Congress and he did nothing.

10: 07  Romney pounded Obama on his pensions and the China issue. And Obama wants to change the subject. He said his is smaller and doesn’t take much time to look at, but said he hadn’t looked at it. What??

10:04  Obama went way over on his time and the moderator never even uttered a word. Wow. She’s been cutting off Romney consistently but let Obama ran over by at least sixty seconds. But on substance Obama is still spending his time telling people that Romney is awful. But he still hasn’t answer why he didn’t put a bill before congress as he promised during his first year.

10:00  Romney on immigration sounded good, reasonable and put the smack on Obama for not doing what he promised to do — put a bill before Congress. When Obama ran in 2008, he promised he would put a bill before Congress. Even when Democrats had control of both parties, Obama didn’t do that.

9:58  Romney “Obama is great as a speaker to tell us his plans… but it hasn’t worked.” Ouch.

9:56  The debate is more than halfway through. Obama is better than last time. He desperately needed that to stop the bleeding. Romney had to prove that his first debate wasn’t a fluke or just lucky. He’s done that too. Additionally, Romney had to come across as human and likable and able to relate to regular folks. Romney has done that quite well.

9:55  Question to Obama –about what have you done for us in the last four years  and that he wasn’t as optimistic as he was four years ago — was a good question. Obama’s description of what he did is pretty optimistic. You’d think that we’re in good times. The facts work for Romney on this point, not for Obama: more poverty, higher unemployment, lower household income, and more food stamps. There is nothing for Obama to say and he cannot address these topics. That is why he simply attacks Romney.

9:50  Obama starts out reminding people how tough things were when he started. He is still blaming Bush. He’s been in office for four years and he’s still blaming Bush. His attacks on Romney for being like Bush or worse than Bush will jazz his base, but I don’t think the average voter will care. Jobs and economics are the real issue.

9:47  Romney’s answer on how he is different than Bush was actually pretty good. Energy independence, balanced budgets, free trade, championing small business, regulatory reform that makes it easier for small businesses to grow and higher people. My path is get people to work and grow the economy.

9:45  Obama’s performance tonight much better than in the first debate in Denver. Of course, that is a very low bar. While Obama had done better, he still isn’t beating Romney. Moreover, he is spending all his time trying to characterize or mischaracterize what Romney would do if elected. But he hasn’t talked very much about he has done and he’s talked even less about what he would do in a second term. Obama is still running like he is the challenger and hasn’t been the president the last four years. That won’t set well with serious voters.

9:40  Pay equity for women topic — Obama gave his talking points. Romney described his efforts to fill his cabinet with qualified women. The University of New York determined that Mitt Romney’s administration had more women in high ranking positions. Romney did well in this answer. It was a question that was supposed to play to Obama’s advantage, but it didn’t play out that way.

9:35  Obama says nobody believes that Romney’s tax plan adds up. But that is a lie. The very economic study that Obama cited at the last debate as proving that it doesn’t add up, proves it adds up and the author of that study wrote an article calling Obama out for mischaracterizing his study. That Ivy League economics professor said Romney’s plan does add up and that Obama was not telling the truth about his study.

9:32  Romney, “I want to get American working again.” The past four years have been a disappointment. 23 million Americans are wanting a job or a better job. Women are among the hardest hit. Romney is smoking Obama on taxes and economic growth.

9:30  Obama says his tax philosophy is simple and he’s right. It is simple. Simply wrong and disingenuous. In the past, Obama has said that he would prefer to increase taxes on the wealthy than have more economic growth. Obama lies about Romney’s tax rate and the middle class tax rate. Romney pays a higher tax rate then the middle class. This whole disingenuous argument was blown out of the water weeks ago by fact checkers. Plus even if Obama cuts taxes by a couple thousand dollars for the middle class, with the loss of income, buying power, and increased energy prices, Americans are still at least $1,000 in the hole thanks to Obama’s policies.

9:26  Romney’s beating the stuffing out of Obama about tax relief for middle income families, citing the loss of income, higher prices for energy and everything else. He will get rid of the taxes on savings, dividends, or interest if you make less than $250,000. He won’t increase taxes on the middle class. This is a very clear explanation. He will balance the budget because an deficit is a future tax increase.

9:22  Obama says that low gas prices are possible only if the economy is in recession. That is bunk. The truth is Obama’s energy policy was to increase energy prices, and it worked.

9:20  Romney — the proof of whether the president’s policies are working is the price of energy. Ouch! That is hard to argue with and it is hard for the president to address that.

9:18  Obama dodged the question about whether high gas prices were the new normal. He said world demand is higher. But when he ran for president high prices were George Bush’s fault. Now it is something else. But as usual, not his fault.

9:17  Romney corrected Obama’s false statements on energy. He won that exchange easily.

9:15  Obama’s answer on energy started with several significant misstatements and misrepresentations. He has cut back on drilling on federal lands. He has blocked the construction of pipelines. Gas prices have doubled since Obama took office.

9: 13  Obama’s response was a raw attack on Romney claiming that he doesn’t have a five point plan, but only has a one point plan — benefit the rich. That is a stupid talking point and if Obama wants to waste his time with such mindless tripe, it will only help Romney.

9:11  Romney’s transition to 23 million Americans who are having difficulty finding full time work was skillful and it highlights that the Obama’s answer was silly.

9:09   Obama talks about 5 million new jobs? Where are those? And he asserts that the economy is storming back?  Is he living in an alternate universe? Not a very serious answer because it was entirely divorced from reality.

9:07  Romney gets the college student’s question first. He is looking engaged and picking up where he left off last time. Talking about being able to find a job after graduation is a powerful message. Romney quoted Biden, “the middle class has been crushed the past four years.” Ouch.

9:03  The candidates have not been introduced yet, but it is about to begin. Obama has to show more energy than his first debate. That won’t be hard. But he cannot replicate Joe Biden’s nutty performance. Joe looked like he drank an entire case of 5 hour energy drinks.

9:00  Live from New York … it is the second presidential debate coming at you from Hofstra University.