BEAM: Monday’s Debate Could Hold Key To Election

Anyone who watched the second presidential debate Tuesday night didn’t need a poll to tell them President Obama won. Republican nominee Mitt Romney wasn’t nearly as effective as he was when he rolled over the president in the first debate.

Both men came out fighting, and most political analysts agreed they don’t like each other. You could sense that the 82 undecided voters at Hofstra University in New York who were asking questions felt uneasy about the sparring match.

A CBS-TV post-debate poll showed Obama winning 37 percent to 30 percent, a seven-point margin. The other 33 percent who were surveyed called it a tie. CNN’s poll gave the president the edge, 46 percent to 39 percent, another seven-point victory. Romney won the first debate by a 67 percentto-25 percent margin.

Some political analysts called Tuesday’s town hall debate a draw because viewers who were polled by CNN gave Romney the higher marks on his ability to handle the economy, taxes, health care and the country’s $16 trillion deficit.

CNN said its poll showed onequarter of the debate watchers said it made them more likely to vote for Obama, and an equal number said it made them more likely to vote for Romney. Half of those surveyed said it wouldn’t have any effect on their vote.

The final debate is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT Monday, and it will be devoted to foreign policy.

If Romney doesn’t do a better job on foreign policy than he did Tuesday, he’s going to have some real problems. The Obama administration hasn’t handled the aftermath of the killing of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya well, and it’s an issue of concern to many voters.

Unfortunately for Romney, he and his advisers failed to check on what President Obama said in the Rose Garden after the attack. Obama said the U.S. wouldn’t stand for terror against its citizens and embassies, but later in those same remarks the president called the Libyan attack the result of an anti-Muslim film. Romney failed to point out the inconsistency.

Obama continues to get points on his likeability, and Romney loses points for his failure to connect with average voters. The latter shouldn’t come as a surprise since the president continues to play the class warfare game, saying that Romney is a wealthy man who doesn’t care about average folks.

Both candidates spend too much time defending their own tax plans and attacking the other fellow’s. What no one has pointed out about taxes and other money issues during these debates is Congress being the place where the real financial decisions are made. Neither Obama nor Romney will get anything done without help from Congress when it comes to enacting their programs, passing taxes and handling the national debt.

One poll about working together with Congress had interesting results. It said 55 percent of likely voters said if Obama wins they would prefer that Republicans hold at least the House or Senate to keep him in check. And 62 percent said they would prefer Democratic control of at least one chamber to keep Romney in check. It’s obvious voters don’t trust their public officials.

Obama hit Romney hard where it hurts. He again tried to tie Romney to George W. Bush policies, criticized Romney’s opposition to the auto industry bailout, the GOP nominee’s absence of details on his tax plans, his record on women’s issues and Romney’s comments about 47 percent of Americans believing they deserve government help.

Romney was effective in attacking Obama’s record for the last four years for failing to deliver on his 2008 promises, his over $1 trillion in deficit spending for each of those years, the national debt that he said has climbed from $10 trillion to $16 trillion during Obama’s presidency, the absence of a program for the next four years and Obama’s failure to deal with illegal immigration.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was asked about the debate on CNN and said, “The problem is not his (President Obama’s) oratorical skills — it’s his record and no policy.”

Naureen Khan wrote in National Journal, a Washington, D.C., political magazine, about “Wal Mart moms” who praised and criticized each candidate. One of those moms said, “I just feel that neither of them 100 percent answered the question before they started finger-pointing.”

It’s my guess that American voters felt the same way and are frustrated about their inability to get straight answers from either candidate. Voters also get awfully uncomfortable when Obama and Romney stand toe to toe, pointing fingers at one another. They expect better from their leaders.

Meanwhile, Romney had a sevenpoint lead Thursday among likely voters, according to Gallup’s daily tracking poll — 52 percent to 45 percent. Romney led 48 percent to 47 percent among registered voters.

Let’s hope Bob Schieffer of CBS’ “Face the Nation” does a better job Monday than previous debate moderators. They failed to keep track of time and let situations get out of hand. Candy Crowley of CNN injected herself into Tuesday’s encounter, which is inexcusable for any journalist serving as a moderator.

American foreign policy is at a crossroads. Maybe this last debate will tell us who can do a better job in that area. What we need is more dynamic leadership on the home front and abroad.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].

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