Here is my quick reaction to the first Presidential debate.
Mitt Romney was at his best. This was the Romney of the book No Apology: reasonable, not too conservative (as he acknowledged the importance of regulations), sensitive to the human and practical impact of policies, personable, witty, king of the power-point, etc. And I’d say that Romney was better tonight than he has been in the past, for in tonight’s debate he was passionate and animated. President Barack Obama made good points, but he looked resigned, or like he was tired or getting over a cold.
In terms of the points that each side made, I’d say they were both about even. Romney launched effective grenades against Dodd-Frank that Obama did not address, and Romney did well to raise the question of how President Obama can reduce Medicare subsidies to providers without that impacting patients. Obama made an effective critique of the Ryan plan for Medicare by arguing that, even if the plan preserves traditional Medicare, the program under the Ryan plan will consist predominantly of the sickest people while private insurance companies win over the healthiest seniors, thereby making Medicare weaker. And Obama did well to note the strong points of Obamacare—-for example, that it has taken on the health insurance companies that prioritize profits over health care, and that premiums have increased at a slower rate than in previous years. And yet, Romney did better on the jobs issue, as he detailed the perils of the economy and talked about how taxes would add more burdens.
In terms of tax policy, I previously thought that Romney’s plan was to cut taxes for everyone and to close loopholes, but what he said tonight was that he would not cut taxes on the rich, but he wouldn’t increase their taxes either. Romney also offered a few more details on loopholes—-he tossed out the idea of having a limit on them, as the rich receive few or none of them. (I think I heard that correctly.) Obama is for tax cuts for the middle class—-and, to his credit—-he has been faithful to that stance as President. But he also wants to raise taxes on the rich. My question is this: Did Romney change his position for tonight’s debate? Did he previously support lowering taxes on the rich? (UPDATE: Check out Joel’s post.)
The debate did not change whom I will vote for. I will still vote for Obama because I like his policies on student loans (I particularly appreciated what he said about cutting out the costly private-sector middle-man), and I trust him more on health care. But I thought that Romney gave off the impression that he had a firmer grasp on the economy—-particularly ways that the government ails it—-and Romney did well to show how his business experience gave him insight on economic issues.
(UPDATE: One thing that Romney said that was not overly savvy, economically speaking, was his proposal to reduce government jobs. How will putting people out of work help the economy? But Obama, rather than asking that, defended his own support for spending cuts.)
Fell free to comment, but I probably won’t debate anyone. I’m resigned and tired, not passionate and animated!