A Look Back at the Debates
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
54,064: the number of words spoken in the three presidential debates. How many of those words actually held meaning in the eyes of the voters? How many changed their minds or reinforced old perceptions? One thing is for sure: Election 2012 will be remembered as the Year of the Debate.
The first showdown between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Governor Mitt Romney at the University of Denver sparked the media wildfire that is the presidential debates. Obama, an experienced debater known for his rhetorical effectiveness, delivered a lackluster performance compared to the more aggressive Romney. Both candidates touched on perhaps the most important topic of this election, the middle class. They each cited specific examples of people they had met on the campaign trail while promising to aid each of them in their searches to attend school again and become employed. While Obama asked for more time to keep his policies rolling and claimed Romney’s plan of increasing military spending and cutting taxes would only further burden the middle class, Romney reiterated that he will “not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families.” In the end, Romney not only skyrocketed the Republican Party’s enthusiasm, but immediately changed the trajectory of his campaign.
A few hundred thousand tweets and countless hours of political analysis later, the candidates met again at Hofstra University in New York. This time, the debate was structured by voters’ questions in a town-hall style debate in an effort to help those who are still undecided have their questions answered. The question topics ranged from unemployment and gas prices to gun laws and security in Libya. The debate served as a comprehensive overview of the platforms of each candidate, but the constant interruptions may have distracted the undecided voters from the answers to their questions. Obama came back from his subdued performance in Denver with perhaps an overabundance of firepower. His constant challenges to Romney’s answers caused Romney to fight back by peppering Obama’s responses with demanding questions. By the end of this debate, it seemed the two were more interested in playing a game of “gotcha” and fact-checking than actually answering the questions of the voters. Perhaps the most significant quote from this debate is Romney’s infamous “binders full of women.” One of Romney’s goals walking into this second debate was to build a stronger connection with women and middle-class voters. This awkward and perhaps derogatory phrase may have kept him from reaching that goal. On the other hand, Obama’s constant badgering displayed a lack of the professionalism that the leader of the country should always uphold.
The aftermath of the second debate left both candidates with a clear set of goals in mind for their third and final debate at Lynn University in Florida. Obama’s goals included giving specific examples of economic policies he has in mind for his second term instead of merely citing reasons why voters should be afraid of Romney’s. Romney’s goals included shaking the impression that he is a wealthy businessman whose policies will only benefit the elite. The final debate on foreign policy proved to be less confrontational than the second debate, and thus more informational. Iran and Israel dominated the focus of the two candidates, while such things as the Eurozone crisis were not even mentioned. Although this debate was supposed to be centered around foreign policy, both candidates found a way to circle the questions back to the main topic of this election: the national debt. Another focus was the quality of the American education system and its teachers. Both candidates bragged about their initiatives that have improved the standard of learning for kids across the nation.
Interestingly enough, in all three debates Obama had at least four extra minutes in speaking time than Romney, yet Romney said a few hundred more words. The debates have evolved into a forum for the candidates to display not only their policies, but also their personalities in an effort to win the votes of Americans. n