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Obama-Romney Debates – Why Obama Has An Edge

October 17, 2012

The second debate, this time Town Hall style, between President Barack Obama and challenger Governor Mitt Romney has just ended. I thought Mitt Romney was pretty robust in his assertions and came through as clear headed and knowing exactly what he needed to do as president. I thought the post debate poll results would give Governor Romney a clear lead. But when the results of the polls came out President Obama was the clear winner.  Was it a representative poll? How did they manage to get the numbers and why did the President do so remarkably well when I thought he has been out of sorts, to say the least, in the last debate and even in this one. I mean, this is not the Barack Obama of 2008 and that is for all to see.

I ruminated on the results over a coffee and realized that people give way too much importance to one – on – one debates in any presidential race. When people are voting for the president or the challenger they are in effect looking at not only what was said but in their sub-conscious mind giving a report card of the presidency. A challenger has a chance only if he decimates the president completely or if the president makes a fool of himself. Neither was Obama decimated by Mitt Romney nor did the president make a fool of himself. The reason why people are inclined towards Obama and why despite a staid performance Obama is scoring higher is because the Obama presidency has touched many lives.

President Obama & Governor Mitt Romney second debate, Town Hall style

President Obama & Governor Mitt Romney second debate, Town Hall style

People are looking at what Obama has done over the past four years and they find that he has been receptive to their needs and their problems. When Obama took over, the economy was in dire straits – the downturn was at its worst. One of the first things he did was to get the flagship of American enterprise, the car industry going with his unique ‘cash to clunkers’ initiative. General Motors was on the verge of shutting shop for good, the Obama administration’s ingenuous program helped GM get back on its feet. Other American car manufacturers like Ford also benefited. Jobs got created and a semblance of sanity was restored. There was light at the end of the tunnel. Bill Clinton rightly pointed out that no president could have restored the economy to health in just four years. The jobless rate is down to around 6% from a high of almost 11%. People are beginning to get jobs again and that is such a relief. He has reduced taxes on the lower income groups so people have more to pay for their bills. He has increased taxes on the rich which has been endorsed by many including Warren Buffet who says he does not mind paying more taxes. The pyramid at the lower end is much wider and therefore more people have found that Obama policy has been good to them.

The much riled Obamacare may be an expensive proposition and it has been a money guzzler but as the president said that the costs will go down as more and more people get medical insurance. There are hundreds of thousands of people who could not afford medical bills and can now get medical care after the Obamacare initiative of this administration. For some chronic patients this has been such a boon, it is as if President Obama has given them another life. I don’t know if it will stick in the American scheme of things but Obamacare to an average American means that Obama really cares. This is such a departure from earlier administrations that it has made Americans think.

Lower taxes in smaller businesses means that jobs are being created in small and mini enterprises. This has been the reason for the reduction in joblessness. This has also given a fillip to those wanting to start new ventures. Easy loans for startups means people want to take risks. I am told that the Obama administration held camps in city after city trying to figure out as to how people could be helped in finding jobs and helping those who wanted to do something of their own. This was one huge campaign from coast to coast. Luckily for the president lately the big corporations have also begun to do well. The huge profit of $1.5b registered by Goldman Sachs this quarter is a case in point.

Obama has also been successful in making America self-sufficient in oil. He found that America’s thirst for oil made them take decisions that were not always in American interest. Going to war again and again was a direct fallout of this fundamental need. He increased domestic oil production and also gave a free hand to newer technologies like shale gas. Today, the US does not need to import oil. This is good economics too. The import bills have gone down.

It would be foolish to call Obama a peacenik. But he sensed the constant fear of families whose near and dear ones were stationed in lands yonder fighting a war that they did not understand. Many foreign relations experts, including yours truly, have been critical of Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq. I still believe that this is a strategic mistake and that the US will realize their folly in the years to come. But the fact on the ground is that Obama has brought back home husbands to their wives, fathers to their kids and sons and daughters to their parents. This is such a relief to so many families across America that they can’t thank Obama enough.  Being constantly at war was an unending source of anxiety for so many Americans. Closure to Iraq has been such a relief. Obama’s declaration that troops will return back home from Afghanistan in 2014 is a culmination to a process of withdrawal that Obama saw as inevitable. This was pragmatic. And then the people reason – did he not get Osama-bin Laden and to them it means that the president’s resolve to fight terror is second to none. Its just that his ways are a bit different while the results have been most agreeable.

On foreign policy President Obama is focusing where it really matters – the Far East. The emergence of China has been the one big development in global affairs in the past couple of decades. Obama does not want to get stuck in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He wants to focus where the real challenge lies. His Look East policy finds endorsement from most experts within the US  and Europe but also those in Japan and in India. But China is no Soviet Union and the relationship between the West and China is much more complex. It needs to be handled carefully and in a manner that the engagement between the West and China does not get hindered by strategic posturing. Obama’s continued engagement with Japan, India and other nations in Asia is an inevitable outcome of the Look East policy that is the cornerstone of Western global engagement.

It is not what Obama has said or has failed to say in a debate that matters. It is what Obama has done in the past four years that is at the back of the mind of voters when they decide on who to vote. The debates are a good opportunity for the voters to get to know the presidential aspirants, but there is  lot more that makes them decide which way to go. This is not to say that all that Obama has done is absolutely perfect. I am sure the president will himself admit that not only could he have done more but also that he did make mistakes many a times. But, overall the Obama report card has been pretty positive and that is always at the back of the minds of most who make a call as to who won the debate.

The last debate is next Monday, I am told. If Obama does not do anything silly, I think the president will again manage a favorable outcome. The one question that still hangs in the air is – what will Obama do about the Iran question were he to get a second term? The answer is not too clear. A satisfactory answer to this question in the course of the next couple of weeks could give Obama an unassailable lead.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Clausen permalink
    October 17, 2012 7:57 pm

    Excellent analysis of the debate! Considering that you are not in the US it is commendable that you understand the issues so well!

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  3. Chelsie Bilbo permalink
    November 14, 2012 10:35 pm

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