B S Raghavan

Romney’s impressive showing in second debate

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on March 12, 2018

The second TV debate between the Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and the Democratic Party candidate and the incumbent President, Barack Obama, was conducted at the Hofstra University at Hempstead, New York on October 16. It was cast in the town hall format, the two candidates facing 80 undecided voters gathered in a hall of the university and answering questions directed at them from those present. Obviously, the questions as well as those who asked them had been previously screened and selected by the moderator, Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent.

The town hall setting differs from the conventional moderator-conducted pattern of the first debate held in Denver, Colarado, on October 3, devoted to domestic policy issues and the last one on October 22 to be held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on foreign policy. It lends itself admirably to a wide range of issues of general interest to voters to be raised. Expectedly, the core concerns reflected in the questions were those involving unemployment and shrinkage in the number of jobs, ballooning fiscal deficit and foreign debt, relief from tax burden, approach to health care and immigration.

Foreign policy came into the picture mainly in the form of references made by the candidates themselves with respect to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and China, since there were only one or two questions touching on them and these too, from what I could make out, were asked almost in passing.

Candy Crowley did a better job of regulating the debate than Jim Lehrer of the Public Broadcasting Service (“Big Bird”) who, as the moderator of the first debate, has been universally judged to have been ineffective, letting himself be bulldozed by the candidates, especially Mitt Romney.

JARRING NOTE

Before taking up the substantive part of the debate, it is necessary to draw the attention of the denizens of the world’s largest democracy that India claims to be, to the noticeably disciplined manner with which the assembled audience abided by the ground rules laid by the moderator about adhering to decorum and restraint, and the friendliness and regard shown by the candidates to each other during their exchanges, without compromising their respective stances on issues.

However, there was a jarring note: Whereas at Denver, Colorado, the two candidates parted after shaking hands with good cheer and beaming smiles, at Hempstead, New York, as soon as the debate concluded, the candidates went their separate ways without the customary handshake and patting of the back, and the spirit of amity was missing.

The most impressive takeaway from the debate for the politicians and big shots in public life in India should be the extreme respect and courtesy shown to the aam aadmi (now derided in India as ‘the mango people’ by the scion of the ruling dynasty!) by both the candidates running for the most powerful job in the world. They listened to the questions attentively and gave their answers without a trace of superciliousness.

Contrast this with how our bigwigs keep on walking fast without showing the poor reporters running after them with their mikes the minimum human consideration of stopping to reply. It beats me how we pride ourselves on being an ancient culture and civilisation and a modern democracy!

In my judgment, Romney, who stole the show in the first debate, made a decidedly impressive showing in the second also, making his points with telling effect and firm conviction, and smoothly weaving into his exposition of the issues facts and figures which exactly fitted his proposals without sounding contrived or far-fetched.

NO MATCH

Obama, on the other hand, did not come through as one in full command of the situation, and mostly banked on rhetoric which is his strength.

Because of his drawling tone and occasional, though momentary, stutter, his way of making out his case was no match to Romney’s engrossing flow of arguments.

To me, Romney seemed to have carried the day.

If I were an American voter, my tilt towards Romney, which began following the first debate, would have turned into a positive vote for him at the end of the second.

However, I am keeping my decision on hold to see to what extent Obama is able to regain the ground during the third and final debate.

Published on October 18, 2012

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