Romney A Mile High After First Presidential Debate

We have a horse race ladies and gentlemen.

Only one candidate came to fight Wednesday night in Denver and that was Mitt Romney.

It wasn’t a knockout, but in the parlance of boxing, Romney won a 10-8 decision. The challenger came prepared, attacked throughout the night, and exceeded expectations.

If this had been a bar fight, Romney threw down and Obama sought peaceful resolution through discussion.

There’s nothing wrong with that; calmer heads prevail and all that, but the question is does America want to remain calm right now? With the financial crisis, political polarization and congressional gridlock, the American people may need to see these two candidates verbally fight it out in order to determine a winner.

There is tension in this country about how badly the American way of life has suffered over the past 12 years. Many question what path we should take going forward, and make no mistake these two candidates present starkly different choices for how American will look if they are elected.

Romney came into this debate needing a game changing performance and got one. After failing to define himself at his nominating convention and suffering several mistake filled weeks on the campaign trail, Romney was able to appear relaxed, knowledgeable and driven.

Obama neglected chance after frustrating chance to hit Romney on conflicting messages, but chose to remain presidential and not get down in the trenches.

It’s like that old adage, never bring a knife to a gunfight. Well last night Obama was looking to have a conversation and Romney brought a flamethrower.

What I took away from Wednesday’s debate is Obama lost an opportunity. He had Romney seriously hurt and on the ropes coming into last night. He could have put him away with a more forceful performance, but let the challenger off the hook.

I think to some degree Romney surprised Obama by attacking the president’s policies in a prosecutorial manner. The president’s laid-back approach fell right into the teeth of Romney’s strategy of playing trial lawyer, and he redirected the president with great success.

That Romney won this debate, stylistically, is the obvious takeaway, but the specifics mentioned by him will not hold up to closer scrutiny, which makes the outcome much closer than it appeared.

Romney staked himself to some dangerous territory on taxes, financial regulations and health care that could haunt him well after the congratulatory back slaps have worn away.

One thing Obama did fantastically was stay on message. Admittedly America is still struggling, but it has improved over the past four years, and Obama’s central argument for another term is that he has put in place policies and plans that will lower costs, create jobs and grow our economy in a fair and balanced way.

There are two ways to balance the budget and pay down the debt, cutting costs and raising taxes.

Obama is prepared to let the Bush tax cuts expire, arguing that we couldn’t afford them to start with, especially when two wars were being fought. All this mess, the tax cuts, wars and corresponding bailouts were funded by China. That has to stop.

In Obama’s effort to fairly spread responsibility to all, he is doing away with corporate welfare and moderately raising the taxes on the most wealthy. This increases incoming revenue and combined with spending cuts will decrease the debt by $4 trillion dollars.

I thought Romney got into real trouble early while trying to describe his economic vision. After spending a year and a half running on a proposed 20 percent tax cut across the board, which disproportionately benefits the wealthiest Americans most, last night he backtracked.

Romney said there was no lowering of taxes on the wealthy, that he would never raise taxes on the middle class, instead he was bringing down tax rates for all.

This is the equivalent of painting a house bright red and telling everyone who sees it, “no it is not red it’s blue.”

This is semantics. Romney knew he couldn’t say tax cut so he lied. It was incumbent upon Obama to call him out on this, and he did to be fair, but didn’t pin Romney down.

Where Romney’s plan falters is if he drops revenue coming in across the board, and pledges that he will not add any money to the deficit or redistribute this tax burden upon the poor or middle class, then the math doesn’t hold up. That has been confirmed by numerous independent and non-partisan evaluators.

Romney wants to claim this 20 percent cut will be revenue neutral by closing loopholes and deductions. This equates to $5 trillion. Romney also plans to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which is another $1 trillion. And he will add another $2 trillion to defense spending the Pentagon hasn’t requested.

The problem is there are not enough loopholes or deductions to cover $8 trillion.

That’s the rub for Romney. If there aren’t enough cuts and the above criteria hold, how will these cuts and spending be funded?

Once again Romney failed to identify what loopholes or deductions he planned to do away with, essentially saying those are details I would work out with Congress after I’m elected. We’re just supposed to trust him here.

Of course this feeds into the ongoing narrative that Romney continually makes broad campaign promises but steadfastly refuses to specify how they will be achieved.

Romney’s lack of specificity was a theme all night in the debate.

When the moderator, Jim Lehrer, moved to the issue of regulating Wall Street, Romney stated he intends to repeal the Dodd/Frank Act, but refused to detail how he would guarantee that banks and investments firms would be kept in line. Whereas Obama would keep the government regulation to ensure predatory lending practices have consequences.

Health Care was the same way. Obama’s plan is clearly stated and passed all branches of the U.S. government. Romney wants to repeal it and replace it with essentially the laws currently on the books. He also made the slip up of saying he would take the provisions he used in Massachusetts and spread them nationally, on a state-by-state basis, which would be the same thing as the Affordable Care Act.

Where Obama damaged Romney was on the Medicare issue. Romney intends to privatize Medicare by instituting a voucher system requiring the elderly and disabled to shop on the open market for insurance. Obama did a good job of showing that if the care required exceeds the amount of the vouchers Romney has no safety net to assist the most vulnerable in their time of need.

I thought Obama scored cleanly on the tax issue, government regulation of Wall Street and health care, which were the core issues of this debate.

Romney plans to govern from the top down, giving the wealthy big breaks and in theory they will invest this money and grow their businesses. This is precisely the trickle down policies of George W. Bush, only the cuts in services and increased spending are even more draconian under Romney.

Whereas Obama is looking to grow from the middle class out, and by doing so, improve the lives of all Americans.

I appreciate the conservative ideal of smaller government, but there is an avenue for the federal government to lead the way to a successful recovery. We are only now starting to take on the tough issues that both parties have neglected for decades. These will not fix overnight nor will they be painless, and it is irresponsible to think otherwise.

Romney’s plans just don’t add up. It is simple arithmetic, and until he shows in detail how all his policies supposedly will work, how they will be funded and what will be cut, he is going to have difficulty gaining traction.

His job last night was to not get crushed, and that was achieved. He gave American voters a reason to take a second look at his candidacy. What he didn’t do is peel away any of Obama’s support. Romney may have won the debate on points, but President Obama very concisely and consistently explained his vision and path. It makes sense and the dollars and cents add up.

Obama clearly believes he has the better plan to move America forward, and puts trust in the voters that they will see the truth, but it’s dangerous allowing your opponent to stay in the game, because upsets do happen.

If Obama wants to keep his job he is going to have to come out and fight on behalf of the middle class and take their anger to Mitt Romney.

Drop those gloves Mr. President and hit this guy.

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