The second presidential debate that took place Tuesday night showed a feistier President Obama than in the first debate, with challenger Mitt Romney focusing his remarks squarely on policies aimed at growing jobs and the economy.
Certain pundits have given the president good marks for holding out the promise for better days ahead and attacking his opponent as untrustworthy and out of touch with most Americans, but Gov. Romney might have made the best pitch at swaying undecided voters who ultimately may cast their ballots to aid their pocketbooks and job creation.
With the U.S. economy remaining weak after four years of Obama in the White House, the president seems to be adopting a strategy of trying to shift the media’s spotlight away from his economic policies that have boosted deficits by $1 trillion a year and not really improved the unemployment rate since he took office. Obama blames the Bush administration for putting the economy into a tailspin but the real problem may be a continuation of and an expansion of hefty deficit spending carried out under the Bush administration that burdens current and future generations of taxpayers, while causing businesses to avoid risk-taking expansion that creates jobs.
In contrast, Romney’s business background puts him in a position of strength in touting his plan for developing policies to stimulate private-sector job growth to cut the deficit and to reduce tax breaks for all but the wealthy. He also spoke directly to investors last night by advocating the elimination of capital gains taxes to help Americans keep or spend what they save. Whether Romney’s economic plan — only discussed in part rather than in full — is feasible in a politically divided Washington remains to be seen.
One unexpected twist of the campaign and the debates is that Romney, the Republican nominee who has been portrayed as a rich elitist by the Democrats who are running the Obama campaign, is championing the need to combat poverty. Democrats usually try to highlight the interests of the impoverished. But an increase in the level of poverty in the United States during the Obama presidency has led him to criticize Romney personally and the sketchiness of the Republican’s economic plan, without putting forth new ideas and polices of the president’s own to help the U.S economy rebound.
As usually is the case, political candidates try to avoid offering details that the opposition can criticize, so voters are left to read between the lines and choose someone with the hope that the person will deliver positive results. Four years ago, the vague promise of “change” was enough for Obama to upset better-known Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary and defeat Sen John McCain, R-Ariz., in the general election.
But a review of reports from the World Bank during the past few weeks indicates that Romney is addressing the key economic issue of jobs that seems to be of concern in the United States and other countries around the world. The bank’s “World Development Report 2013” concluded that jobs are a cornerstone of economic development, with a pay off far beyond income alone. The report stressed the key role of the private sector to create jobs and explained how poverty falls as people work their way out of hardship.
The World Bank’s report also found that jobs offer the best insurance against poverty and provide a way to empower women, in particular, to invest more in their children. Obama’s criticism of Romney in last night’s debate as someone who women cannot rely on to look after their interests struck me as particularly ironic. Romney talked about his record of appointing women to cabinet-level posts when he was the governor of Massachusetts, as well as discussed how he would help to create jobs, to cut deficits and to reduce tax rates for the poor and the middle class, while the president basically said his adversary would not be able to do so.
The closely contested presidential contest likely will remain winnable for either candidate as election day approaches, barring major missteps by either side. Obama holds the natural advantages of incumbency and familiarity with voters, while Romney has the more daunting challenge of seeking to convince undecided voters that he is the candidate who truly knows how to aid economic recovery, to spur job creation and to restore prosperity to a country that has far too many able-bodied workers unemployed or underemployed.
The scheduled third debate about foreign policy may be better suited for Obama, who now has four years of experience as commander-in-chief, but Romney has proven to be a formidable debater who may be able to perform well enough to give him a proverbial “puncher’s chance” of winning on election day in a number of swing states, such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia, that he likely will need to become the next president and to receive his much-desired chance to give America and its people an economic lift.