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October 4th, 2012.
When Barack Obama entered the stage in Denver, Colorado, he seemed self-confident and quite relaxed. Compared to him, Mr Romney appeared to be slightly inhibited, but somehow different to how I had viewed the Republican presidential candidate before. After 90 minutes of discussion, Mr Romney turned out to be the winner of the evening, the winner of the debate.
What had happened?
Within the first minutes of the debate, it was all about the economy, stupid. The creation of jobs is one of Mr Romney‘s main issues in the 2012 election campaign and one of the few issues where the Republican candidate is ahead of President Obama in the polls. I had the impression that Mr Obama got off the wrong foot at the beginning of the debate and wasn’t really able to dive right into the discussion. Mr Romney, on the other hand, surprised the President with a 180-degree-turn by saying that the economy should be regulated. This „turn of the tide“, so to say, created a dilemma for Mr Obama and forced him into having to agree with the Republican.
The second topic was Obamacare, as Mr Romney called it. According to Mr Romney the President, actually a self-declared fan of this term was planning to cut the costs of the public health care system by 70 Billion Dollars – a number that President Obama immediately denied. The debate went on like that. Mr Romney avoided mentioning his scandalous remarks on not giving a damn about 47 per cent of US-Americans and Mr Obama avoided talking back. But just appearing statesmanlike might be not enough in these three presidential debates. Mr Romney won the debate. In this case, he won simply because he couldn’t lose. Nearly every spectator expected Mr Romney to drop a brick, which he didn’t do. The public’s expectations were quite different concerning Mr. Obama’s speech – given the fact that the President has a reputation for delivering rhetorically brilliant speeches at decisive moments, basically any Obama-speech that would not live up to these high expectations had to “underwhelm” critics and the public.
It’s all about the „swing states“
In some cases in the past, presidential debates have changed the outcome of the election. This race is a very close one, although Mitt Romney has made some severe mistakes, such as talking disparagingly about 47% of the US-Americans. These debates were often told Mr Romney’s last chance to make the turn. But this race and these debates are not only about the „hunt“ for votes from the other party, but also and especially for the votes from switchers, mainly in the important swing states. If President Obama goes on like this in public debates he should not be able to convince many swing voters. For Mitt Romney, the situation is far better. Mr Obama did not attack him harshly, he did not make a fool of himself. But the race is not over.