Debate Breakdown: Romney Comes Out Swinging

The hype and lead-up to Wednesday night’s presidential debate was substantial. As a rather moderate voter, I was quite eager to see how it would play out. Most pundits — and pretty much all post-debate polls — contend Mitt Romney was the winner, largely due to his aggressiveness and President Obama’s perceived lack of energy and unwillingness to challenge some of Romney’s assertions. I’d have to agree with that analysis. Here’s the breakdown from The Washington Post. (Note: The next two debates will be Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, while the vice presidential debate is slated for Oct. 11.)

The weak economy has long been Obama’s biggest obstacle to reelection. On Wednesday, he argued that, although the country faces problems, it has begun to “fight our way back” because of his policies and the resilience of the American people.

“Over the last 30 months, we’ve seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created. The auto industry has come roaring back. And housing has begun to rise. But we all know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And so the question here tonight is not where we’ve been but where we’re going.”

But Romney said the status quo “is not going to cut it” for struggling families. “Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They’re just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.”

Romney clearly came to the debate determined to change his image as someone who cares little for ordinary Americans, a view that was heightened by his dismissive comments about the roughly 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes.

Throughout much of the early part of the debate, he sought to portray himself as a protector of the middle class, not the wealthy. He said that he would not raise taxes on middle-class families and that he would not reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans.

Obama, however, said that Romney’s tax plan would do just that. He said his rival favors a $5 trillion tax cut and argued that eliminating loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans would not provide enough revenue to avoid deepening the deficit. He said Romney would either have to cut into middle-class benefits or reduce spending on vital programs.

“The magnitude of the tax cuts that you’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people but, more importantly, would not help us grow,” the president said.

Romney repeatedly has declined to specify what loopholes and deductions he would eliminate and passed up opportunities to do so again Wednesday. But he said Obama had mischaracterized his tax plan, saying that it does not include a $5 trillion cut.

“Let me repeat what I said,” Romney said. “I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not my plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit.”