Obama’s performance: Elena Kadvany
Tonight, the real president showed up. President Barack Obama was passionate, focused, eloquent, defensive — in short, he was the man who inspired so many voters four years ago, the man who still has the power to do so today.
The town hall format of the second presidential debate forced Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to finally voice their policies and opinions on many issues that have been relatively ignored this election season. The debate, which included the usual suspects of tax policy and the economy — but also less-heard issues such as gender inequality in the workplace and immigration policy — revealed Romney to be a weak and inconsistent candidate unfit to sit in the Oval Office.
Obama focused on facts and moving forward while Romney got hung up on “he said, he said” type issues and backtracked on many statements he’s previously made. For example, on immigration, Obama reinforced his commitment to serious reform and reminded viewers the efforts he has made on the issue — the DREAM Act, the recent legislation for young immigrants — all of which are significant steps forward and possibly the most he could accomplish in a Congress so divided on the topic.
Romney, on the surface, also reinforced his commitment to immigration reform — saying he supports all legal immigrants that come to the United States and wants to create a system that reflects that. For the children of illegal immigrants, Romney said he supports a path to citizenship, despite the fact that he’s repeatedly said that he will veto the DREAM Act. Instead of admitting this and explaining, he returned to his favorite fall back: “Obama was bad, I’ll do better.”
Not to mention, on a crucial student issue — Pell Grants and loans — Romney took stances that are in direct opposition with Rep. Paul Ryan’s beliefs. In response to the very first question of the night, from a 20-year-old first-time voter concerned about getting a job after graduation, Romney said, “I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program growing.” But Ryan’s budget plan calls for a $200 billion cut from Pell Grants. This is not to say that Ryan’s plans are Romney’s, but it’s another source of inconsistency that should trouble Romney supporters.
Obama, on the other hand, was a rock of consistency, tenaciously defending his policies and beliefs — even to the point of visible anger at Romney’s faulty logic and false claims. Obama’s first debate performance was admittedly disappointing, especially for voters who might have supported him in 2008 and are now on the fence. But tonight, we saw the real Obama — the one who can lead our country for the next four years.
Romney’s performance: Sarah Cueva
After the second presidential debate, the win record is 1-1. President Barack Obama came out swinging in tonight’s debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., making Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney look desperate and unfocused in his arguments.
Romney started out with a very lackluster answer to a question that is surely on the minds of college students everywhere: How will we know that we will find satisfactory employment after graduation? Aside from saying that he would not eliminate Pell grants, Romney failed to adequately address how he would ensure that college graduates would find jobs, instead going on a generic tangent about how he “knows what it takes” to create jobs.
As the debate went on, it seemed that Romney was on the defensive and was trying to avoid controversy by skirting specifics in laying out his policy plans. This backfired when it became clear that Obama was laying out more specific, point-by-point plans.
Romney did make some valid points regarding the failures of the Obama administration, most notably Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Energy policy is one of the biggest issues facing America, especially given unsustainably high prices at the pump. It is one thing to say that we need to reach energy independence, but it is a different thing entirely to actually enact tough policies to reach this goal. Romney’s arguments here showed that he would be better suited to this purpose as president.
Other than this positive moment for Romney, he came across as disingenuous and overtly political throughout most of the debate. His biggest mistake was his accusation of Obama as not doing enough in the days following the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya last month. He also falsely stated that Obama did not mention terrorism until two weeks after the event, and moderator Candy Crowley’s fact-check drew applause from the otherwise quiet audience.
Though Obama appeared to be the crowd favorite this time, Republicans should hope that Romney will learn from his mistakes and redeem himself in the third and final debate of this election cycle. Because if his demeanor and arguments in this debate are any indicator of his performance as president, the next four years do not look promising.