In the Arena

The Hofstra Debate: No Clear Winner

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Michael Reynolds / Pool / REUTERS

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney shakes hands with President Barack Obama at the start of the second presidential campaign debate in Hempstead, New York, Octo. 16, 2012.

I don’t know who “won” this debate. The President won on the substance. He was, obviously, far better–sharper, more energetic, more effective–than he was in the first debate. In the crucial first half-hour, he successfully hammered Romney on his baloney-laced tax plan; he mentioned that Romney wanted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood on at least 3 occasions, perhaps more, perhaps one too many; and demonstrated Romney’s inconsistency by pointing out that Romney, the great defender of fossil fuels, had once stood in front of a coal plant in Massachusetts and said “This plant kills” and shut it down. It was a strong performance by the President, capped by his stirring response to the question about the assault on the Libya consulate (and abetted by Candy Crowley’s apt fact-checking: Obama had indeed called it an “Act of Terror” on the day after the attack, in the Rose Garden). But Romney had some very strong moments as well–on crucial issues like the economy and the President’s record. He was a plausible candidate for President, especially for people who haven’t followed the meanderings of his policy positions–or his utter refusal to provide details–very closely.

(MORE: Obama Bounces Back With Strong Showing in Second Debate)

Most political debates are like this. There aren’t very many clean wins or losses. The candidates work on the audiences they’ve targeted–women for Obama; small business for Romney–and few minds are changed. The number of minds that are changeable at this point in this race is so miniscule that I can’t guess which candidate did better at influencing the truly undecided–which is why I can’t say who won. And I do think the bickering hurt both candidates, especially among women (and therefore may have hurt Obama more–although the President’s substantive answers on questions affecting women were much stronger than Romney’s).

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Oct. 5–11)

I’ll have a lot more to say about this event, and the state of the race, in my print column tomorrow. But one big thought is inescapable: Romney’s greatest weakness is that his proposals for the future are ridiculous. Obama’s greatest weakness is that his proposals for the future are nonexistent. And so, the question turns, as so often happens in presidential campaigns: which of these men do you want to have in your home for the next 4 years? Neither was particularly cuddly tonight.

For those of us who’ve followed this closely, Mitt Romney’s transformations–from Massachusetts liberal, to Tea Partyish Republican, to the current soft-edged moderate–are astonishing and brazen. They raise serious questions about his character and values. But for low-information voters, just tuning in–for people who just want a change after four tough years, as Americans are prone to do–he may have seemed a plausible alternative tonight.

MORE: Mark Halperin: Grading the Town Hall Debate

439 comments
elotrolado
elotrolado

You write, "Obama's proposals for the future are non existent".  Really?  He has proposals for most of the major issues:  the economy and jobs via tax reform and stimulus; immigration via the Dream Act; Wars-withdrawal by 2013; healthcare is on track with "Obamacare".   He is weak on a proposal addressing the debt.

shaysite
shaysite

I was at University of Tennessee when Peyton Manning was a senior. He was indeed a lot like Romney. He worked to appear likeable in public but behaved horribly when he thought people weren't looking. The UT athletic department settled for a reported $300,000 with a female trainer whom Peyton was accused of sexually assaulting. Despite all his talent and a surrounding team that went on to win the national title the year after he left, Peyton could not even beat Florida his senior year. Now his younger, more modest brother has twice as many Super Bowl rings.  

shaysite
shaysite

Yeah that's what they said before the first debate too.

grammadry
grammadry

I met Romney's lawyer/tax trustee's (Brad Malt) wife at a social event and she stated that she would NOT be voting for Romney!  Interesting....

rexking55
rexking55

Let's say Obama is on the record for knowing on day 2 that it was a military assault on 9/11 by A.Q. So he knew it right away, but his campaign chose to lie to the American people because they wanted to score cheap points against Romney. That's worse than him not knowing. Did Obama actually know on Day 2? That's what someone needs to pin down. He either did or he didn't. Either way it's not good for O.

rexking55
rexking55

Obama is in big trouble. Libya, Libya, Libya just won't go away now. 

squirefld
squirefld

Romney set up Obama for the third debate (foreign policy) and Obama can lie all he wants, he's toast.

valwayne
valwayne

I would agree with Mr Klein that Obama at least showed up for this debate, and it probably was pretty much a draw, except for the fact that what most people will realize after they think about this debate is that after 4 years of Failure and Misery, Obama still has no PLAN, except more Failure and Misery.  Gov Romney doesn't have a PLAN to restore growth and jobs.  As for the Libya question....I have to say that Mr Klein is lying.  I would say something that harsh...except he puts in quotes "Act of Terror"?  By putting it in quotes he is saying in this context that is exactly what Obama said.  That is a LIE!  This is what Obama said exactly    "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for".  Now, in my opinion that is far far different from calling the Benghazi murders an "Act of Terror"!  Especially when Obama and his administrtion spet the next 2 weeks blaming it on a spontaneous demonstration that never existed.   However, I would expect Obama Kool-Aide Drinker desperate to excuse Obama's lies to paraphrase what Obama sad to suit themselves.  That is not what Mr Klein did.  He specifically put in quotes words that Obama did not utter.  When you include the s it makes it perfectly clear that Obama was not referring to a single specific ACT.  Yet that's what Mr Klein is clearly trying to make you thin.   And the reason he is lying about it is crystal clear, and he should be ashamed as he wasn't relying on member like Candy Crowley.  He clearly had time, and did look up the exact quote, and then put it in his article incorrectly on purpose.  That is called a lie folks! And dishonest biased journalism! Its why journalist are so despised!

beaverorduck
beaverorduck

I, like Joe Klein, must have watched a different debate than the Democrats posting on the web today. Obama didn't suck wind like in the first debate, so I guess that's what the left calls a "win".

buygunsandgold
buygunsandgold

Love the swipe at the unwashed electorate ("low information voters").  And we wonder why Time/NYT/WP continue their decline....

You summed it up Joey:Romney’s greatest weakness is that his proposals for the future are ridiculous (ie I don't agree bc I"m a liberal but crap, at least he has a plan I and fellow journalists can attack). "Obama’s greatest weakness is that his proposals for the future are nonexistent." READ THIS AGAIN LIBS.  The MSM admits your Messiah has NO plan. Oblamo can't fake it anymore...We bought the snake oil 4 yrs ago and we aren't buying the refill Rx...

Amanda Anderson
Amanda Anderson

I don't want either one because they don't address all the issues with clear and thought out plans that can be implemented in reality in a decent amount of time.  Neither one is interested in this country as a whole.  There are ways to make everyone happy while getting everyone to make just a little sacrifice to get it going.  These just want our money, plain and simple.  Arguing over it isn't going to help.  I say impeach them all and start over.  Give everyone a fair shot to run in the government.

Amanda Anderson
Amanda Anderson

4 years of nothing happening, again or, 4 years of fighting for my daughters rights to their own bodies which by this century should not be an issue.   Two movements already happened, Equal Rights and Women's Lib.  Now we are facing both of those again int his election.  With Obama we will have our rights,  woman or racial, but we still won't have jobs and our assistance programs will go down the toilet and we will be forced to accept socialistic medicine.  The semi-wars that are happening we will still be apart of while he gets rich off our tax dollars.  Mitt on the other hand has solutions for business but nothing clear enough to follow to find out where his agenda lies.  Kind of hard to clamp down on a country your personally invested in.  If you don't like how it's run don't invest in it, being president won't change that, D'uh.  But this is as far as his Golden Parachute goes.  Other than shifting money around which "might" create jobs he plans on stiffing the poorest of the poor.  WHich translates to single parents across the board.  He even said himself that children are "guaranteed" to do better with two parents in the home.  Well how does that work if you ban gay marriage? There is less divorce and abortion among committed and married gay couples than there is heteros.   Does he have a plan to get all us single parents together with our equals and get us married?  Will this stop abortion? Hell no.  SO he does business woopdedoo.   In our personal lives he is going to limit those freedoms our military work hard to protect.

They both suck in my opinion.  I want another option. 

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"He [Romney] was a plausible candidate for President, especially for people who haven’t followed the meanderings of his policy positions–or his utter refusal to provide details–very closely."  In other words, the ignorant and the uninformed.

HopyMcChange
HopyMcChange

Crowley didn't fact check Romney...she created confusion that looks a lot like cover, and later stated Romney was right.

http://www.realclearpolitics.c...

That's not her job.

Obama was blaming the video for two weeks, and that is absolutely a false assertion on their part and they had to know it.

Elson Canlas
Elson Canlas

I would rather be ridiculous than non-existent.

barracuda43
barracuda43

Gallup just out

Romney 51%

Obama 45%

Romney is opening the lead wider. Bye Bye Obama!

northumberland
northumberland

Some of the smartest people I know are still deciding -- not because they are 'uninformed' - precisely the opposite.   They are not ideological.   They know that current entitlement spending, deficits, and debt cannot be sustained.   Neither Romney's nor, certainly, Obama's non-existent plan addresses the situation.   The answer of course is somewhere in the middle -- a la Simpson Bowles, which recieved no mention last night.   Hard choices have to be made:   either way, one is voting for something unappealing, but one must vote.

life5678
life5678

 Get Barry Obama’s Greatest Hits album – ‘Broken record’!

Side A

I sound like a Broken Record (15:10)

If I had your money I’d throw mine away! (1:12)

Liar Liar Pants on fire (24:7)

I walk on water (7:77)

All the kings men couldn’t put the economy together again (365:00)

I got nothin! (Sympathy symphony) (6:66)

Give it to me one more time (00:01)

Broken Record, Broken Promises, Broken Country (00:00)

Side B

Same ol song and dance (10:10)

My record’s so broke it plays backward (00:00)

Skipping (my) Record (11:11:11)

There are huge scratches on my record! (99:99)

I'm an angry HulK! GRRR (Blame shifting, shape shifting) (01:10)

What? Read between your finger lines? (01:00)

Debate Fixin, Chicago Style! (08:00)

16 Trillion reasons (16.000,…)

Jennifer Spreng
Jennifer Spreng

Here's the problem:  Mitt's proposals are not ridiculous and Americans have persistently voted for iterations of the main tax cuts/jobs program model since 1960. People who think Mitt's proposals are ridiculous do not think they work; they attribute the economic improvements post tax-rate-cuts to other things.  That's a legitimate policy debate, and neither side is frivolous.  In fact, even if the governor loses in the election overall, he probably has already won on tax rates with most people.  Doesn't mean the governor wins -- people may, for example, not think we need that sort of stimulus because they think the economy is improving enough; that I think they would be wrong is not the issue -- but the second people heard it from him in the first debate, his prospects improved dramatically.

But the president's proposals are still non-existent.  That's why despite having been pretty unfairly pummeled at a personal level but also having other legitimate problems as a candidate, Mitt Romney is really doing quite well.  

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Benghazi was a CIA post and not an Embassy, hence the secrecy and double talk.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Toast was what Mittens was when the President slapped him down for trying to politicize American deaths.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Perhaps you don't recall, or choose to ignore the horror-show that was left to Obama to sort-out.  Our GDP was in free-fall, and we were shedding 800K jobs per month.  Just the act of turning that around and putting us back on the road to growth is a major feat. 

Now we have Mitt coming around telling everyone that they are no better-off than they were 4 years ago...and Ryan on the stump telling his accolytes that they had a right to expect that the year after the stimulus would be their best year ever (based on?).  As for their 5-point plan...I have one too, and am willing to serve as President.  The "plan" is as follows:

 - End war everywhere

 - Provide cheap and abundant fusion-energy

 - Grow corn in the Arizona desert

 - Cure cancer and Alzheimer's

 - Colonize the moon

I refuse to provide any details until after you elect me.  However, if you send me $100, I'll provide you with a Powerpoint slide with exactly the same info (and no more).

P.T. Barnum seriously underestimated the population rate of Romney voters, because there must have been at-least 10 of these suckers born every minute.

Christine Lewis
Christine Lewis

The next debate is ALL about foreign policy.. and Obama won't be able to lie his way out (and won't have Candy to 'save' him).

rexking55
rexking55

Yes, sucking less is not a win.

barracuda43
barracuda43

You can always vote for the Roseanne Barr/ Cindy Sheehan ticket!

bobell
bobell

What you want is a combination of Superman, Daddy Warbucks, and Louis Pasteur.  Good luck.

barracuda43
barracuda43

So fighting to keep your rights to murder a baby in the womb is health care? Lol! Your  a low piece of scum!

rexking55
rexking55

No one is talking about this b.s. 

Christine Lewis
Christine Lewis

Romney has NO intention of trying to undue ROE V WADE.. so just stop. This is the same Liberal crap that the Democrat party spews out in every election. I think it's degrading to women's intelligence. AMANDA.. vote with your brain, not your 'lady parts'.

rexking55
rexking55

Crowley did Romney a huge favor. Libya is now being checked, parsed, spun, and counter spun--all by democrats and the press. Romney just sits back and watches this cancer grow on the Obama campaign er administration.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

Romney is building up huge leads in deep red (and hence irrelevant) states.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Ahh. The dreams of tea baggers. And yet you will have a rude awakening 11/7/12

wandmdave
wandmdave

I'm not ideological either but Obama has been playing his hand for 4 years so anyone paying attention should have figured out how he thinks by now.  Romney has been campaigning for about a year so anyone paying attention should know what he's been preaching on almost all the important issues by now as well.  The only question these debates should raise among anyone who has been following politics for more than a month, whether they are ideological or not, is which Romney is genuine.  Was his hardcore conservative persona over the last year his true beliefs and his swerve towards moderation starting with the first debate a shameless ploy for general election votes or is his current talk what he's believed all along and the tea party stuff just a shameless ploy for primary votes?

If he is really the moderate I might consider voting for him (but I need some more details in his plans so I can judge better first).  Unfortunately hes flopped too many times and so regardless of what he believes I don't think he has the spine to stand up to the powerful and vocal lunatic fringe of his party as Obama generally has.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

How do you explain the economic growth under Clinton after he raised taxes, and the subsequent economic collapse presided-over by Dubya after his tax cuts?  Voter memory loss must be so comforting to Romney.

Christine Lewis
Christine Lewis

I live in California, where Jerry Brown is trying to pass Prop 30, to raise taxes. It is opposed by even 'hard core' Democrats. People don't want higher taxes..PERIOD.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 And yet the presidents proposals will create 12 million jobs in the next 4 years, which happens to be the exact same number that Mittens is promising.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Separation of Church and State. Love it live it accept it.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Nope, he'll have the supreme court do it for him Chrissy.  Mitt is currently being advised on judicial issues by Robert Bork, who has the distinction of being too whacked-out crazy conservative to be confirmed for the court...and likely to be first in-line to fill a vacancy when one of the older centrist justices retires.  Then, sure as shootin', you'll have one of the pro-life challenges to a lower-court ruling brought before the court...and Roe v. Wade is toast.  Now, if Mitt does not fill the projected vacancies on the court with a reactionary justice (like Scalia / Thomas), the righties on the base will absolutely crucify him and he'll be a one-termer for sure.  Do you actually think that he would allow that to happen?  I would invite you to also vote with your brain.  Otherwise, your "lady parts" will end up as a fully-owned subsidiary of the U.S. Government.

paulejb
paulejb

Leftcoastrocky,

Sure, Rocky. Florida, Virginia and North Carolina only have 57 electoral votes.

barracuda43
barracuda43

See you November 6th for your lesson. Romney is actually making the map bigger by the day. Obama has started running ads in Washington state. Thats tells you they are in big trouble. 

barracuda43
barracuda43

The Demorats and Obama didn't listen to the American people in the midterms of 2010. Now prepare for your final lesson. You will wake up to zero control of any branch on 11/7/2012. Good riddance!

northumberland
northumberland

Speak for yourself.  I want a party that respects this planet and its wild denizens.   But I dislike a party that depends on and purchases, with the taxes of people who pay federal taxes,  an electorate that votes itself other peoples' money.    That's the trade-off in voting Democrat.   As Ben Franklin said, when the people realize that they can vote themselves money, the Republic is through.    We're at the juncture, in this election.    Like Rome, we can hold it back an administration or two, but the demographics are clear.

 I voted for Obama, and I have "figured out how he thinks by now."   That's the problem.  

The 'new'  right-wing Republicans mock anything remotely protective of the environment or wildlife.    They are ignorant boors.  That's the trade-off in voting Republican.

The new Democrats are  a symbiotic collection of  identity groups, government workers, with  hands out, palms upward.   Obamacare was bait and switch. It wasn't for the middle class, it was for the base.   Cadilllac policies, everybody!   It wasn't for everyone, especially the majority of those  who fear its consequences, who will pay for it, and who opposed how it was done.  There were far less sweeping ways to change obvious problems with the system.  So much for Red State, Blue State.   It was about then that many who had voted for Obama realized they'd been had -- useful idiots.

I wonder too about a candidate who bamboozles college kids to get the necessary votes.   They haven't been in the world, they don't have families to support, and a large fraction of them will grow more conservative as they get older.   They are voting for Obama  because they think it's cool.    Or that the hated "rich' and the less mentioned middle class will pay for their education.

Obama isn't clear on his next agenda because he is going to soak taxpayers dry, again.   Romney isn't clear on exemptions and loopholes.   Obama has been fairly lousy on wildlife -- ask the wolves in Montana, whom the Democrats gave to Tester so that he could be relected.   So it's voting for 'fundamentally' changing the U.S. from a free country to something else entirely and nowhere near enough tax revenue, even if you tax the rich,  to pay for the free riders.  Or its voting for a party that thinks the natural world is here to be plundered.  

It's a choice between syphilus or gonorrhea. 

 

ahandout
ahandout

 Explain how 4 more years of the same is going to magically produce a growing economy.

rexking55
rexking55

WA state? Hadn't hear. That's big trouble.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

The majority of americans didn't vote in 2010. Only the hard core zealots did. I think it maybe you who is in for a rude awakening.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

So you claim that Moody's Analytics is wrong since that is their exact forecast.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

The same as the past 4 years produced a growing economy.  Net-5 million jobs is pretty good, considering that the economy didn't bottom-out until well after Obama took office.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Well seeing as housing starts are up 15%, buider's confince is at a 6 year high and unemployment is going down, it looks like it already is.

barracuda43
barracuda43

Its not. Thats why Liberalism is a disease!

JadedFan
JadedFan

You may not like Romney's proposals for creating a basket of deductions and limiting the aggregateto something like $17,000.00.  Which is a number that would cover most americans entirely.  In fact that sounds an awful lot like raising the taxes on the rich by another name, as many rich would use far more than that just on their mortgage deductions on loans on their multi million dollar homes so I am not sure why libs would hate it other than the source, but let's grant some might.  Fine.  But how is that at all like Bush?  And at least it is a new idea, something Obama seems to be completely devoid of.  Which is the main reason he is losing.

Obama'sand his supporter's  playbook must be running really on empty if he feels the need to pull out he Bush boogie man card again.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

Explain how four years of warmed-over Bush economics is going to magically produce a growing economy.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 According to Moody's Analytics it will produce 12 million jobs in the next four years... what do you have?