GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney missed a crucial chance in the second presidential debate. The opportunity was there for Romney to dismantle President Obama for his mishandling of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Instead, Romney got caught up in the wording and an assist from moderator Candy Crowley helped Obama win the exchange.
What Romney should have said, instead of focusing the words “act of terror”, was that the Obama campaign repeatedly disputed that the Benghazi attack was a pre-planned, well-coordinated act of terrorism. He also should have hammered Obama on the administration’s refusal to provide more security in Libya prior to the attacks, despite repeated requests.
Romney was correct that the Obama administration repeatedly claimed the Benghazi attacks were a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video. However, in trying to deliver his criticism, he failed to enunciate that clearly. Romney said Obama did not call the attack “an act of terrorism” in his speech on September 12. Moderator Candy Crowley jumped in, helping Obama, saying he did refer to it as “an act of terror”.
The facts are, near the end of his September 12 speech, Obama said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” But the issue should not have been whether they called it an act of terror or not. The issue should be the Obama administration claiming for two weeks that it was spontaneous, despite all evidence to the contrary. Crowley also tried to allude to that in the immediately, but it got muddled. Afterwards on CNN, Crowley said Romney “was right in the main, but wrong on the word.”
Sadly, this one moment is what all the news channels were talking about afterwards. It will be the most memorable moment from the debate. Because of that, this debate likely helps President Obama. Romney will get another chance to nail the president on the Libya attacks. The third presidential debate, scheduled for October 22, will focus exclusively on foreign policy.
The debate was a feisty one, with the candidates bickering at each other and almost coming nose-to-nose at one point as Obama got out of his chair and inched toward Romney during a discussion of oil and gas drilling permits. They also argued with the moderator for more time on several occasions. In the end, President Obama received three minutes, 14 seconds more time than Governor Romney.
There were some bright spots for Romney, as he hammered President Obama on his failed promises from four years ago. He also worked in a reference to the Fast and Furious scandal, which unfortunately will largely be ignored by the media.
Obama was significantly more energetic in this debate than the first one, which Romney won handily. If you take the Libya stumble out, this debate is likely a draw. If Romney had handled it right, he likely would have won overall. Instead, President Obama eked out a narrow victory.
Poll results released right after the debate by CBS show Obama winning 37%-30%. CNN’s poll of registered voters scored it 46%-39% for Obama. On the bright side for Romney, that same CNN poll showed 58% believe the former Massachusetts governor would do a better job on the economy and the majority believed he would be a better leader. In CNN’s focus group of Ohio voters, 15 people called the debate a draw, 14 said Romney won and 6 thought Romney was better.
Will this debate change the presidential race? It might help put a halt to Obama’s slide in the polls, but it might not have changed many voters’ minds. Basically, this race is a toss-up going into the final debate, which takes place next Monday.
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