The first debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney took place Wednesday night, contrasting both candidates’ visions on economic and domestic policy.
Obama focused largely on strengthening the middle class and ensuring everybody has access to an opportunity to be successful. He said Romney’s policies would do the opposite and have been proven unsuccessful by past politicians.
“It ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take,” Obama said. “Are we going to double-down on the top-down economic policies that helped us get into this mess? Or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says America does best when the middle class does best”?
Romney described various people in the nation who are struggling under Obama’s presidency, asserting that they have asked him how the economy can be turned around.
He outlined a five-point plan which includes energy independence that would create jobs, increasing trade, improving education, working to balance the budget and, most importantly, help small businesses. Working as a successful businessman before he became governor, Romney said he “know[s] what it takes” for small businesses to create jobs.
UW life sciences communications professor Dietram Scheufele said Romney’s approach of discussing regular people he has met with was an effective one and a strategy he called “an old Clinton debate trick.”
“This is something that really helps voters take fairly complex issues and connect them to their personal lives,” Scheufele said. “The people we are trying to sway in the debates are the undecided voters. The people who haven’t decided are people that are swayed by image and have a moderate understanding of the issues.”
If this debate is viewed as a tie after the initial few days of post-debate spin, Scheufele said, Obama should be pleased. He said Obama was “off-message” from approaches that his campaign have recently found effective, such as portraying Romney as out of touch by playing up his “47 percent” comments or offshore tax accounts.
He added the upcoming debates might see a more aggressive Obama, one, he said, UW students will most likely see Thursday in the president’s speech on Bascom Hill.
Agreeing with Scheufele, UW College Republicans Chair Jeff Snow said this debate was a “good showing” for Romney.
“He eloquently laid out a vision for our country to rebound our economy in a way where we don’t have 23 million people unemployed and an unemployment rate over 8 percent for over 40 months,” Snow said.
Higher education was not a large issue in this debate with comments only coming from Obama, highlighting his record on helping make college more affordable for students by providing grants and keeping interest rates low on student loans.
Snow said Obama “can’t say anything” about his record on college affordability as tuition costs have risen nationwide. He said government providing more grants and loans is not a solution for stopping tuition rises.
UW College Democrats Chair Chris Hoffman said Obama understands the federal government has to play a role in ensuring college is affordable. He was pleased with Obama’s performance and tone in the debate.
“I think it was very presidential and professorial, laying out the facts and not aggressively going after Mitt Romney, letting his own words speak for themselves,” Hoffman said.