Tonight was the Town Hall style Presidential debate. Romney had another very strong performance, though with a big stumble on Libya. Obama was far more engaged, making it an interesting night. But if the issue in this next election is the economy, than I think that tonight put Romney next to the finish line with a two-step lead over Obama.
Update: Via Hot Air, a CBS News snap poll has Romney winning on the economy, 65% to 34%.
First to Candy Crowley's performance as a moderator - it was horrid. One, her selection of questions was ridiculous - there were several questions that read like they had been written by MSNBC in coordination with Kos - questions on the Lilly Ledbetter act, contraception and assault weapons bans? Spare me. Two, when she jumped in to support Obama's assertion that he had labeled the Benghazi attack as an act of terrorism on Sept. 13, that was horse manure. Yes, Obama mentioned the word terrorism in that speech, but he wasn't specifically referencing Benghazi, and he spent the next two weeks blaming the youtube video.
Obama was far more Bidenesque tonight, trying to interrupt, showing visible disdain for Romney, and repeatedly accusing Romney of lying. But the bottom line is that Obama spent far more time trying to attack Romney than explaining either his vision for the future or effectively defending his record.
But all of that said, Romney was just eloquent in speaking about the state of the economy, and nearly as good in outlining his plan for the future. A black gentleman told Obama that he had voted for him in 2008 but was not excited about pulling the lever this time around - what could Obama do to make him excited to pull the lever. When Romney addressed the question, it was his high point of the evening, and a damning indictment of the past four years. Video to follow. Here is the transcript:
I think you know that these last four years haven't been so good as the president just described and that you don't feel like you're confident that the next four years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you're going to get. You're going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can't afford four more years like the last four years.
He said that by now we'd have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work. I wasn't the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the president's plan — didn't get there.
He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security because he pointed out they're on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He'd get that done. He hasn't even made a proposal on either one.
He said in his first year he'd put out an immigration plan that would deal with our immigration challenges — didn't even file it.
This is a president who has not been able to do what he said he'd do. He said that he'd cut in half the deficit. He hasn't done that either. In fact, he doubled it.
He said that by now middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It's gone up by 2,500 (dollars) a year. And if "Obamacare" is passed — or implemented — it's already been passed. If it's implemented fully, it'll be another 2,500 (dollars) on top.
The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, look, I've created 5 million jobs.
That's after losing 5 million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country. The unemployment, the number of people who are still looking for work, is still 23 million Americans. There are more people in poverty — one out of six people in poverty. How about food stamps? When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps; today 47 million people are on food stamps. How about the growth of the economy? It's growing more slowly this year than last year and more slowly last year than the year before.
The — the president wants to do well; I understand. But the policies he's put in place, from "Obamacare" to Dodd-Frank to his tax policies to his regulatory policies — these policies combined have not led this economy take off and grow like it could have. You might say, well, you got an example of when it worked better? Yeah, in the Reagan recession, where unemployment hit 10.8 percent. Between that period — the end of that recession and equivalent period of time to today, Ronald Reagan's recovery created twice as many jobs as this president's recovery. Five million jobs doesn't even keep up with our population growth. And the only reason the unemployment rate seems a little lower today is because of all the people that have dropped out of the workforce.
The president has tried, but his policies haven't worked. He's great as a — as a — a — a — as a speaker and — and describing his plans and his vision. That's wonderful, except we have a record to look at. And that record shows he just hasn't been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we — median incomes are down $4,300 a family, and 23 million Americans out of work. That's what this election is about. It's about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.
Romney had some weak moments - Libya in particular, where Romney stumbled and stuttered (as I screamed at the television screen). Obama was asked about security in Libya and why more security was denied. Obama did not answer the question. Romney managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of pointing out the obvious - that Obama had failed to answer, followed with an explanation of why, Romney got blindsided by the President's claim that he had told Americans this was a terrorist act on 13 September, with the odious Candy Crowley intervening in support of Obama. Video to follow.
But at any rate, Romney will have a second bite at the apple on Benghazi at the last debate on Monday. But as Allahpundit sagely notes at Hot Air, as regards the economy and Benghazi, "only one of those is an issue that people will vote on."
The biggest laugh line of the night - Obama's answer to the last question asking Obama to explain away the biggest misconceptions America might have about him:
I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That's not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers being rewarded. . .
One could well ask then why Obama made subsidized green jobs a centerpiece of his plans for economic recovery and why every one of his "jobs plans" were largely plans to subsidize government union employees. Or one could well ask why such a miniscule part of his Stimulus - a few percent - went to supporting small business.
My impression was that Romney won this debate convincingly on the only issue that counts, the economy, and that while Obama was aggressive, he just could not defend his record. If Frank Luntz's focus group is any indication, the majority of people share my view. In Luntz''s group, most had voted for Obama in '08, yet the majority swung strongly towards Romney at the conclusion of this debate.