President Barack Obama was much more prepared for Tuesday’s debate

Obama gets his act together

October 19, 2012

Barack Obama won Tuesday night’s debate.

In both the CBS and CNN post-debate polls, Obama won by 7 percentage points. Not exactly a runaway victory, but enough to right the sinking ship that was his campaign. It sets the stage for the third debate Monday night, which is focused on foreign policy.

The biggest clash of the night was about foreign policy, specifically Obama’s reaction to the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others by terrorists. Obama looked presidential by taking responsibility and standing up directly to Romney.

“The suggestion that anybody on my team … would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.” Romney then stumbled by incorrectly stating that Obama took 14 days to acknowledge it was a terrorist attack and was fact-checked by both the moderator and the president.

There goes the “October surprise” that was the Libya attack. Romney’s biggest attack on the Obama foreign policy was crippled by his flub in Tuesday’s debate. Romney is strong on domestic policy but weak on foreign policy, which doesn’t bode well for him in the final debate.

Romney also stumbled on women’s issues, another weak issue for his campaign. He spoke of receiving “binders full of women” qualified for his cabinet, which implied they were viewed as tokens and not really valued members of his team. He also stated, “Every women in America should have access to contraceptives.” That seems at odds with his stance on Obamacare, which makes that a requirement.

Obama went on the attack on these issues and more. “Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan,” he said. “He has a one-point plan. And that’s to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.” When Romney tried to imply that Obama’s pension fund invested in outsourcing, Obama responded, “I don’t look at my pension. It’s not at big as yours so it doesn’t take so long.”

All the questions from the voters were excellent, including one asking the differences between Romney and former President George W. Bush. Obama knocked it out of the park. “George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform … George Bush never suggested we eliminate Planned Parenthood … in some ways, (Romney has) gone to a more extreme position.”

Then, Romney’s 47 percent finally came up. Obama wants to “fight for them…If they succeed, I believe this country succeeds.” This was the most powerful point Obama could make domestically, and he finished strong with it in his last answer. Here’s hoping the fact that soldiers in combat are part of Romney’s 47 percent comes up during the next debate like it did in this one. The notion that these soldiers aren’t taking personal responsibility should offend every single American, regardless of party.

Both parties can agree this was a more substantial debate. The sharp questions from voters and the moderation from Candy Crowley were excellent and threw into sharp relief the differences between the two candidates on a number of major issues. Americans saw the two candidates forced to explain their policies to people with the same concerns as them, and they saw one candidate come out ahead.

This win helps Obama stem the bleeding from his first performance. He was everything he wasn’t last time: energized, specific, engaging and down to earth. He looked and sounded presidential. With the last debate on Monday, Obama will be looking to continue his momentum and finish strong like he did Tuesday night.

Photo: President Barack Obama talks with Ron Klain during presidential debate preparations in Henderson, Nevada on October 2, 2012. Senator John Kerry, also pictured, played the role of Mitt Romney during the preparatory sessions.

Photo credit: Pete Souza, White House

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared as an opinion column in The Maneater on October 19, 2012.