Pundits were calling it for Mitt Romney Wednesday night after the first presidential debate between the former Massachusetts governor and incumbent President Barack Obama.
But in the light of day, after analysts looked at the claims and counter-claims, it appears that while Romney may have had more swagger, Obama had stronger command of the facts.
NBC’s “Meet the Press” host David Gregory said the odd debate format, hosted by PBS’ Jim Lehrer, made it difficult to determine who actually won because neither candidate was able to lay out details in a way that clearly spelled out either’s agenda, so the points were scored on style rather than substance.
Romney looked more comfortable, smirked and smiled a lot, gave a folksy nod to the late Ronald Reagan’s gentle chiding style and seemed to control the facts.
But there lies the rub.
Romney insulted the president, likening Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to his children who may not always have been truthful growing up.
“Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it, and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that is not the case, all right?”
Well, maybe Romney should have been looking in the mirror when he said it.
Despite it clearly being in the plan posted on his website and in the GOP platform, Romney stood on stage and said, “I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals.”
But Romney wants to extend the Bush tax cuts and then reduce tax rates by 20 percent across the board. Of course, that will reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. Romney says he wants to cut taxes for everyone, but he also proposes capping the rate on investment income and cutting the corporate tax rate.
And we all know who that will help, primarily.
Romney falsely accused Obama of doubling the deficit.
According to The New York Times, when Obama took office in 2009, the Congressional Budget Office had already projected a $1.2 trillion deficit for the fiscal year which ended in September of that year. It ended up $1.4 trillion.
“For fiscal 2012, which ended last week, the deficit is expected to be $1.1 trillion – just under the level in the year he was inaugurated. Measured as a share of the economy, as economists prefer, the deficit has decline more significantly – from 10.1 percent of the economy’s total output in 2009 to 7.3 percent for 2012,” The Times reported.
Romney said his proposed tax reform would be “revenue neutral,” meaning that the deficit would not get any larger, but he hasn’t explained how he would do that other than offering a platitude that if he got more Americans working, more people would be able to pay taxes and that would close the revenue gap.
He never explained how he would get them back to work, either.
His plan would reduce the marginal tax rate across the board by 20 percent, which would cut tax revenues by $5 trillion. He would offset that by cutting out a lot of deductions and loopholes in the tax code, although he didn’t specify which ones.
But he admitted in the debate last night that the likelihood of eliminating some tax breaks, like the mortgage interest deduction, probably wouldn’t get past Congress.
Romney attacked “Obamacare” – which Obama admitted was largely based on Romney’s universal health care plan passed when he was Massachusetts’ governor – but offered no federal guarantees that Americans would get health insurance, saying it should be left up to the discretion of the individual states.
And the GOP nominee continued to insist that Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for his health care reform, even though fact-checking organizations have debunked the assertion.
One of the biggest exaggerations by Romney was his assertion that half of the companies supported by Obama’s energy program had gone out of business.
According to the Department of Energy, The Times reported, only three of nearly three dozen companies that received federal loans were facing bankruptcy.
Romney said the money went to Obama campaign contributors, but Republican, as well as Democratic, contributors have invested in companies that received loan guarantees.
Did Obama look uncomfortable? Yes. Did Romney appear more confident? Yes.
Admittedly, it wasn’t Obama’s best performance, but voters would do well to read the pages before deciding to judge the book by the cover.