The voters’ questions debate is a chance for the candidates to prove they relate well to voters by being down-to-earth and folksy. Neither candidate did that. In fact, they both proved to be pretty out of touch with the average voter. Romney showed he was out of touch with the concerns of modern women and Obama seemed out of touch with the reality of how bad the economy is. The most successful candidate in this type of debate was Bill Clinton in his debate with George H. W. Bush. Clinton’s ability to connect with voters on a visceral level was a defining debate moment and an election game-changer.
Obama won the debate however I feel the media hyped up how successful he was. This is perhaps because he did so poorly in the first debate. Obama won the debate because he came back fighting after Romney’s knock-down punch in the previous debate. Obama showed some passion, however considering the stakes -he is fighting to be re-elected President and to define the course the country takes – I felt he should have really come in all guns blazing.
Romney performed fairly strongly however there are innate weaknesses, of both his party and himself, he failed to overcome. The key Romney moment in the debate was the ‘binders full of women’ comment. This supports my hypothesis; in Politics the most damaging blow is self-inflicted aka reinforcing negative stereotypes of yourself. Romney’s comments reinforced the idea the Republican Party is waging a ‘War on Women’.
The fact Romney appointed 50% women to his cabinet whilst Governor of Massachusetts should be applauded, and I think if he had phrased it another way or was a Democrat, there wouldn’t have been a negative reaction. Romney made matters even worse when he mentioned women leaving work early to cook dinner thus conjuring up images of 1950s Stepford Housewives. Emphasised by Romney’s patrician manner, the whole statement suggested he was completely out-of-touch with the concerns of modern women.
If Romney’s weakness is his family background and wealth then Obama’s strength is the opposite; his family background. Obama’s story is very modern; a mother from Kansas, a father from Kenyan. He represents the modern face of America which helped propel him to the White House four years ago.
Obama has always been most convincing when he talks about his own family’s struggles with healthcare and student loans; we believe him as we know he has experienced this. Therefore once again, Obama was at his strongest when talking about his own personal experiences. He convincingly related the inequality his grandmother faced professionally to the inequality women face in the workplace today, linking it to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Romney played to his base by attacking Obama over his response to the Benghazi attack. However this had limited overall success and resulted in confusion over definitions of ‘an act of terror’ and questions surrounding Candy Crowley, the moderator’s handling of the question.
Obama has been strong on Foreign Policy, ending the war in Iraq and killing Bin Laden, therefore I don’t think this is a good line of attack for the Republicans. It also shows poor taste to play politics over the deaths of American citizens. Obama is at his most convincing when talking about his role as Commander in Chief. He has the look in his eyes which you can only have when you’ve had to make the phone call from the Oval office to the families of those lost in service to their country.
Obama had the most to win and to lose in the debate; another terrible performance could have drained all the energy out of the campaign. He also helped halt some of the Romney Campaign’s momentum. Romney performance showed he could be consistent and aside from the ‘binders full of women’ comment he was fairly strong, if uninspired. Fundamentally, neither achieved the key goal of the voters’ questions debate; that they understand the concerns of the average American.
N.B. It is rather ironic, as a Brit, I am writing about being out of touch with the average American.