This was the debate between the two men vying to be President Americans were waiting for. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney sparred on domestic and foreign policy, at times interrupting and talking over each other, hurling accusations of their alleged respective failures and even getting in each other’s faces. Moderator Candy Crowley from CNN acted much like an older sister letting younger brothers resolve their differences, but heading off a fight with firm “if I could have you sit down!”
At Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, a sharp contrast emerged between political philosophies of how to lead the country out of recession and into a strong, prosperous future. Unlike the first debate where the President appeared “checked out,” his answers were on point, attacking his Republican opponent.
With an eye to Latino voters, Obama challenged Romney on his immigration views, reminding the audience of “self-deportation” and his close ties with the author of Arizona’s restrictive anti-illegal immigration law SB1070. The President didn’t explain his own failures, including skyrocketing deportations on his watch.
The Governor promised immigration reform in his first year in office. But he also used the word “illegals.” Social media burned with indignation over the use of a word that is widely denounced by leaders, academics, and regular people as being offensive. Tweets and Facebook posts offered this as proof that Romney doesn’t understand or respect Hispanics.
Sparks flew when the Governor accused the President of not immediately identifying the killing of Americans in Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador, an act of terror (something moderator Crowley corrected on the spot).
“The suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive,” the President stated as he glared at his opponent.
Both men courted coveted women voters, with the President, reminding them that he supports their right to reproductive freedom and equal pay. This prompted Mitt Romney to point to his women-friendly policies as governor of Massachusetts, stating he had approached "a number of women's groups and said, “Can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women."
Within seconds, “binders full of women” became a trending hashtag, Twitter handle, Tumblr, and Facebook page.
A social media and internet sensation was born.
In this second debate, Governor Romney was on defense, but he held his ground with a basic message that portrayed the President as failing to deliver on his promises to grow the economy and create jobs in the past four years. Then came the whammy to a vulnerable incumbent, by encouraging voters to size up Mr. Obama’s last four years as an indication of what a second term would look like.
“We have a record to look at. And that record shows he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need,” declared Mr. Romney.
The seed of doubt had been planted in the minds of voters.
But will it take root and grow? Will the same happen to Mitt Romney with the President’s hard hits on his record and inconsistencies? Voters will have one more opportunity to evaluate these men next Monday at the last presidential debate.
This post was published as “Presidential Debates: Obama and Romney Re-Match" on October 17, 2012 in Latina Magazine where I am a weekly politics columnist.
To read more of Viviana’s Election 2012 columns in Latina, click here.Who had the most standout performance--President Obama or Governor Romney?