--Richard E. Vatz
I personally like President Barack Obama, and I almost felt queasy at the drubbing he took from Mitt Romney tonight in the first presidential debate of 2012.
Before the debate, the questions were whether the candidates would stay on the issue of the economy; whether Mitt Romney would articulate why he would make a better candidate; and whether the debate would focus on extraneous issues like whether Gov. Romney paid sufficient taxes or whether he implied he was not worried about nearly half (47%) of the public who receives government aid.
Surprisingly, the debate stayed on substance, but equally surprising was the president's demeanor. The president kept his head down throughout much of the debate, and he appeared to feel chastened.
For his part, Mitt Romney appeared to be articulate, relentless but respectful, and on target and on message throughout.
Contrary to the president's accusations, Gov. Romney stated, he did not support a $5 trillion tax cut; he won't reduce the share of taxes paid by wealthier Americans; he won't raise taxes on the middle class; and he rejects all tax increases during a recession. His main target for help is small businesses who hire new workers -- that is the main avenue to reducing unemployment. Establishing a rhetorical mechanism for solving a problem is critical, and Romney had not done so before tonight.
The president actually did not address many of the accusations Gov. Romney made: why did he put $90 billion into green jobs, jobs which Romney doesn't conceptually reject? Why does the president think you get a tax break for shipping jobs overseas?
No answer -- to either.
The president accused Mitt Romney of rejecting all compromise on budget...one telling point.
But the debate was so consistently imbalanced that one wondered how unprepared the president was or how unprepared he anticipated Gov. Romney would be.
An overwhelming debate victory does not by definition yield electorate support, but as close as this election is, it appears that President Obama has reason to believe he is no longer a shoo-in.
Again, knockout by Gov. Mitt Romney. On to the Thrilla at Hofstra.
Professor Vatz teaches Persuasion at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013)