I was involved in an important conversation at church focusing on locally important issues, so I missed the first 20 minutes or so of the debate, but listened to it on the radio on my way home and then watched the rest once I arrived home. As I've done with previous debates, I'll offer a few unscientific thoughts! I say unscientific because I'm not unbiased. But is anybody out there unbiased? Sean Hannity isn't, nor is Chris Matthews. Everyone has a horse in the race. So, the same is true of me (and of course, I should note here, that when speaking politically like this, I speak only for myself).
So, did the real President Obama show up? I think so. He threw off the rust, and was able to effectively counter punch Mitt Romney's charges, and did so fairly effectively. The format led to a much broader set of questions than previous debates, which allowed us to hear about immigration and gender pay gaps, for instance. I missed the tax and energy debates from earlier in the debate, but replays showed the President doing well. He took responsibility for the ongoing situation in Libya and said that they would get to the bottom of things. Mitt Romney's decision to turn from the question of immigration to his investments in China led to a rather bizarre exchange that really damaged Romney's credibility on the immigration issue. It suggested that he really didn't take it seriously.
I think that the key to the debate was the ending. Mitt Romney closed by suggesting that the Democrats had painted him as a bad guy who didn't care about all the people. In response, he pulled out the God-card to say that he cared about 100% of Americans. This decision left President Obama to drop the 47% bomb on his opponent.
In his closing statement, Obama suggested that he had been painted as anti-business and anti-self-reliance, but he suggested that he was a good American capitalist. And he is. He just believes that the government has an important role in providing safety-nets, providing necessary regulations, providing for education and infrastructure. In other words, government provides the foundations that allow Americans to prosper. Now, many left-leaning Democrats might prefer a bolder, indeed more Socialist vision, but that's not the President's vision. But then as he closed he could point to Governor Romney's own words about the 47%, whom he labeled victims who don't take responsibility for their lives -- because they don't pay income taxes. President Obama was able to list all the people this 47% includes -- seniors, soldiers, students, and low-wage earning Americans, who don't make enough to pay income taxes. President Obama wisely saved that statement for the end, for it will be the lasting image.
Of course, there were issues, like poverty and even education, that continued to get buried. Presidential debates seem not to be the place for such conversations -- so we'll have to keep the pressure on.
Now, we wait to see how all of this falls out. Some will say that the first debate set the tone, was the game changer, and that this didn't matter. I disagree. My expectation is that the President's stock will rise and the trend toward Romney will end -- especially in Colorado and Ohio. And, of course, there's still the third debate, next Monday evening, which will allow the two to show their foreign policy chops. This thing is by no means over, but the President did himself a lot of good.
Neither candidate is perfect, and as much as it pains me to say so, we will survive a Romney presidency. We survived Warren Harding, James Buchanan, George W. Bush. But, I believe that we would be best served by continuing in the direction we're going. The nation's economy is growing, while we have serious foreign entanglements to deal with, I think we're on the right track. And, I think a growing number of Americans feel the same.