Debate Debacle for Candidates

October sparks the height of election season with three debates. The first contentious domestic presidential debate left Governor Mitt Romney with leads in the polls, and left Democrats scrambling for President Obama’s performance, or lack thereof. After Vice President Joe Biden’s aggressive strategy against Governor Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate last week, the third debate on foreign policy will present challenges for Obama on key issues.

Romney took advantage of his early lead, directing questions and responses at Obama, rather than at the moderator. Obama’s lack of decisive direction during the first debate gave Romney an edge on a host of issues.

“There has been a decided shift to Mitt Romney in every poll, both nationally and in key swing states. I expected that the polls will remain volatile through the debates, and possibly all the way to election day,” said Patrick Murray, Director of the University Polling Institute.

Pew Research Center released a poll after the first debate, explaining how Romney’s strong debate performance erased Obama’s lead. The study concluded that “about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the October 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September.”

The hour and twenty minute debate surveyed the change in jobs, war savings, middle class taxes, household incomes, oil production, tax cuts, number of Americans without jobs, rise in food stamps, the federal debt, Medicare cuts and plans, Dodd-Frank, the Massachusetts ranking and green companies.

The New York Times identified Romney’s aggressive approach towards President Obama’s take on the status of the economy, jobs and health care. He used a clear, direct and aggressive track record, noted how economic growth is slower than last year and that this status quo is not going to suit the middle class.

President Obama discussed how the private sector added five million jobs over the past 30 months, but Romney capitalized on how Obama’s policies have not led to an increase in jobs. A New York Times’ i nteractive f eature d escribed how job growth in the private sector depends on when you start tracking job growth.

There was a negative trend in overall job growth from January 2009 until February 2010. If an evaluation is done on the private job sector, there has been a steady increase of jobs since February 2010, with over four million jobs added as of August 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

“In thinking about the debates, it is useful to consider the story of the arc of the debates. Biden would likely have been more subdued if Obama had done better in the first debate, but now the story is framed as “the Democrats are excited again” and give Obama some momentum going into the second presidential debate,” said Dr. Michael Phillips-Anderson, Assistant Professor of Applied Communication.

On Sunday, Reuters/Ipsos surveys among voters regarding which candidate would be best suited to create jobs, Romney now leads the incumbent 42.5 percent to 29.2 percent among likely voters.

“If Obama does well in the second debate, it may be even better for him that he did so poorly in the first debate. It makes it seem like Romney can have one good night, but that Obama still has the appeal. This is what happened in 1984 when Reagan turned in a disastrous first debate performance and then buried Mondale in the second debate,” said Phillips-Anderson.

Obama faces the challenge in next week’s foreign policy debate of explaining to the electorate that the GOP challenger is not a candidate with new ideas, but rather one in the same. Romney’s challenges remain with a strong push of his policies, and why they will stimulate the economy.

“For the second presidential debate this year, I’ll be looking to see what Romney’s response will be to Obama’s inevitable ‘Romney will say anything at anytime and has no core values argument,’” said Phillips-Anderson.