2012 Election | Barack Obama | Mitt Romney | News | The Economy

Romney Takes Aim At Big Bird In Presidential Debate: VIDEOS


The economy was the name of the game during the first 2012 presidential debate last night, providing voters with their first side-by-side comparison of President Obama and GOP opponent Mitt Romney's dollars and cents policies.

Romney of course again justified corporate tax breaks that he claims will allow rich people to hire more poor people, thereby improving the latter group's economic station. But Obama called him out, saying Romney's plan was simply the rehashing of a Reagan-era "trickle down" economics.

"Are we going to double down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess, or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says, 'America does best when the middle class does best'?" said the president. Romney tried to turn the "trickle down" motif against the president, saying, "[The Obama administration advocates] a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams -- and it's not working."

That was the main conversation last night: is it better to help those at the top already or to work to give those in the middle or below a helping hand, whether that be in the form of tax breaks, providing affordable insurance or creating jobs?

Though there will be no consensus on a winner or loser in this debate, many believe Romney did better on "style" — that is, being poised and commanding on stage — while Obama won when it came to facts. "The president was especially strong in picking apart Romney’s ill-conceived plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, which independent analysts say would leave elderly Americans down the road at the mercy of private insurance companies," wrote the editorial team at the Sun-Times. "Maybe those vouchers would cover the bill, but quite likely they would not over time, even as traditional fee-for-service Medicare would wither away."

And the Washington Post's Lori Montgomery opened her analysis with "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Mitt Romney needs to spend a little more time with his budget reports." While the Los Angeles Times called out Romney for falling back on the "death panel" rhetoric the right peddled so hard to fight Obama's healthcare law.

Perhaps the most ear-pricking part of the evening, for those who follow social policy, at least, was when Romney, repeating something conservatives have become fond of saying, claimed his economic plan was "moral."

"I think [the federal deficit] not just an economic issue, I think it’s a moral issue,” Romney said. “I think it’s frankly not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they’re going to paying the interest and the principle all their lives.” I've included a clip of that AFTER THE JUMP.

For his part, Obama opened the debate by using a term he's been lobbing around recently: "economic patriotism." "Are we going to double down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says America does best when the middle class does best?" he said.

Through all the wonk economics talk, the clearest proclamation last night, the one most unhindered by rhetoric and jargon, was Romney's promise to defund public broadcasting, even if that means seeing moderator Jim Lehrer suffer - and Big Bird, too.

"I'm sorry Jim. I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm gonna stop other things," Romney said."I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too." Not enough to maintain funding levels, though.

Watch that clip, as well as some "zingers" compiled by TPM, a clip of Obama saying Romney's "bold" tax plan has become "never mind," footage of Romney explaining the morality of his economic plans, as well as a handy 100-second TPM recap of the entire 2-hour event AFTER THE JUMP.


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  1. Great recap Andrew! But re: "Though there will be no consensus on a winner or loser in this debate" -- sadly there is, and it was Romney who won.

    I am a huuuuge Obama admirer -- and of course voting GOP is out of the question -- but it was the return of Obama the policy wonk, not Obama the inspiring firebrand.

    So what if he was right about the details of a voucher? These debates are won or lost on body language.

    Romney started shrill, but then he looked direct and commanding. Obama started by looking like he'd rather not be there, and maintained that look. I the split screen, Romney looked directly at Obama; Obama looked down or away, which reads on TV as evasive or defensive. He should have been on the OFFENSIVE!

    Overall the effect was of Obama being the 'old way' and Romney offering Change! Why didn;t Obama lay out a clear plan and explain in a strong pitch why he needs 4 more years to finish!

    There were so many misrepresentations from the GOP and Romney, why didn't Obama CALL THEM OUT? It's sad to admit. but Romney won this one.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Oct 4, 2012 8:42:00 AM

  2. Yeah, there is no point in even trying to spin it. Poll after poll shows that the vast majority thought Romney won. To sit here and debate who was more factual is irrelevant, that's not how debates are won unfortunately.

    Obama needs to wake the f**k up.

    Posted by: BEAHBEAH | Oct 4, 2012 8:53:38 AM

  3. Oh, every Liberal is so disappointed. Please. The show was NOT for Liberals. It was for independent White women. We'll see who actually won.

    Romney = Fredric March
    Obama = Spencer Tracy

    Don't go into a f.cking panic.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 4, 2012 9:26:08 AM

  4. Romney may have won on debate "performance", but he never rattled Obama. Obama was calm, the "adult in the room", doing his best not to let the annoying loudmouth child distract him. That might not make for exciting television, and I wish Obama had been more on the attack, but he did nothing to hurt himself. There were no gaffes, and as the headline here indicates, the only thing people are going to remember is "Romney wants to kill big bird". If people went beyond the visuals, and listened to the content, Obama still has the edge on the issues. Romney offered no specifics, lied and/or flipflopped on his previous statements, and spouted off the same republican talking points they've been saying for four years. He emptied his arsenal, but there was nothing new here.

    Posted by: JD | Oct 4, 2012 9:32:55 AM

  5. Does he not know that S. Street has a world-class ninja in the form of Snuffaluffagus? And that badass invisible mofo heads the Wetworks and Reprisal Committee for all of PBS.

    Posted by: McKinley | Oct 4, 2012 9:54:28 AM

  6. I'm surprised at people saying Obama at least remained calm and made no major gaffes. That's some major optimism, there. The performance by Obama was cringe-worthy, and I campaign for the guy. Romney seemed poised and controlled, and looked like a leader. Obama seemed confused, unprepared, and nervous. A few of his replies were Palinesque streams of consciousness where he jumped around among three or four policies. No one will care about steamrolling Lehrer, and frankly Lehrer deserved it given his moderating skills. I can't stand Romney and won't vote for him, but that performance was close to an A+. Obama's was barely passing. Performances like this don't matter as much for the poll bumps as they do for mobilization. Obama just made a slam dunk election complicated.

    Posted by: Stefan | Oct 4, 2012 10:22:10 AM

  7. Lie, lies and more lies, by the GOP. Facts rule the day. Sorry GOP.

    Romney was a bully, not very respectful to the process or Jim Lehrer, and talked like he was on Red Bull. Is this what determines a win?

    I could easily see Romney pinning down his classmate and cutting off his hair. Presidential? Not even, close. Can you imagine him in a meeting with World Leaders? Ugh.

    This is typical of the rights message...speak loudly, spew "47" points (lies) in one breath and hope to get something that sticks. I am not impressed.

    Obama should have been ready for this, and I am sure he will the next time around.

    Posted by: Will | Oct 4, 2012 10:23:19 AM

  8. Oh, the hyperbole! Romney an A+, really? Were people wearing special glasses to see that?

    If this debate truly changed anyone's opinion about which candidate to vote for then it only points to the general dimwittedness of the American electorate.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 4, 2012 10:38:43 AM

  9. "If people went beyond the visuals, and listened to the content, Obama still has the edge on the issues."

    Back in the early days of televised presidential debates... to be specific, JFK vs Nixon. Those who listened to the radio thought that Nixon won. Those who watched television thought JFK won. Look who won the election.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Oct 5, 2012 1:40:55 PM

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