Many observers remarked that Obama seemed tired and low-key and that Romney was comfortable and energetic. But Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, faulted Romney for delivering “one well-practiced sound bite after another” but “failed to deliver a knock out punch against President Obama.”
“The president offered specific proposals and a clear vision for the next four years while Mitt Romney played attack dog and dodged any questions about the details of his own plans,” said Davis. “Romney went for style, the president went for substance; it speaks to the character of each man.”
But R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of national Log Cabin Republicans, had a different view on Wednesday night:
“One thing came through loud and clear tonight, and we hope our fellow Republicans take note: in a domestic debate without divisive and distracting social issues, conservative ideas resonate, moderates and independents listen, and the Republican wins.”
When PBS debate moderator Jim Lehrer asked the candidates to share their views of the role of government, Romney said, “The role of government is to promote and protect the principles” of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
“First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America’s military,” said Romney.
“Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by — by one another.”
“We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same god and we care for those that have difficulties, those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled,” said Romney. “We care for them. And we — we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens.
“But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals,” said Romney.
When Romney tried to portray Obama as failing to work with both parties on important legislation, the president gave examples of his work with Republicans.
“I will take ideas from anybody, Democrat or Republican, as long as they’re advancing the cause of making middle-class families stronger and giving ladders of opportunity to the middle class. That’s how we cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses.
“That’s how we cut a trillion dollars of spending that wasn’t advancing that cause. That’s how we signed three trade deals into law that are helping us to double our exports and sell more American products around the world,” Obama continued.
“That’s how we repealed ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.’ That’s how we ended the war in Iraq, as I promised, and that’s how we’re going to wind down the war in Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s how we went after Al Qaida and bin Laden.”
If you missed the debate, you can watch it online on YouTube. President Obama’s discussion of working with Republicans, including on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, starts at the 1:24:20 mark.
Top photo: Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney (left) and President Barack Obama at the first presidential debate of the 2012 presidential election. (via YouTube)