Pound for pound, Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney emerged the better fighter with US President Barack Obama on the ropes for most of the hour and a half long presidential debate on Wednesday night.
Trinidad and Tobago political scientists Derek Ramsamooj and Winford James, speaking with the Express in separate interviews yesterday, both agreed that Romney won the debate hands down.
James said the Republican campaign had the best shot in the arm that it has had since it became known that Romney would be the candidate. He said Romney did the better job in the debate, even though he (James) believed that Romney was changing his position to suit the moment and most of what he said was not in sync with what he had been saying all along. "But he was able to respond President Obama's plan with pretty solid alternatives," he added.
Obama did not speak with the self-belief he displayed in 2008, James said, adding that Obama came across as being too careful, and was not as passionate. "He seemed at times as if he was on his own and there was no battle behind him," he said. James said there seemed to be insufficient engagement on Obama's part. He added that while Romney was fired up, Obama was dispassionate, "almost like a professor..giving a lecture in a classroom...standing apart from the students".
He said Obama did not seize the opportunity to punch holes in Romney's health care plan to demonstrate that it would leave 50 million Americans without insurance. "He didn't seem to be remembering the inconsistencies and contradictions in the Republican statements," he said.
He said Obama was sure about certain things:
1) that parts of the economy had recovered well
2) that there needed to be more focus on education than Romney was advocating
3) that America should not pauperise the middle-class
4) that the higher income bracket had to pay more taxes
But, James said, Romney was stronger in pressing the point that private enterprise could do all these things better.
James said while he was not certain that Romney would necessarily gain more public support, he (Romney) did seem to have a good sense of where he wanted America to go. "And the President did not seem to be exploiting what he knew of Romney with what Romney was saying here (in the debate). He did not point out the contradictions in his position or to force Romney to be specific —in saying how he would create the jobs, build the economy etc".
Ramsamooj said what has emerged since Wednesday night's presidential debate was a discussion on the leadership style of Obama and his adversary Romney. He said the body language and rhetoric style of both gentlemen influenced who people saw as winning the debate and that the combination of leadership rhetoric, leadership policy and the capacity to relate these issues to the common man was what the debate was about.
"We saw a different Barack Obama in the presidential debate when compared to four years ago,"Ramsamooj said. Noting that it is easy to criticise and to be critical of the establishment until one becomes part of the establishment and has to defend inactivity, he said: "Most persons would agree Romney emerged the better candidate. He (Romney) exuded far more confidence than President Obama, his ability to convert issues of policy into pragmatic actions became evident in his discourse. There were times that Obama by his language displayed levels of hubris. He also appeared to be incoherent, lack-lustre, tired, indifferent and his words which suggested that 'if you don't subscribe to my view, then vote Mitt Romney" displayed an arrogance style of leadership that would not convince or motivate the marginal voter in the swing states."
Ramsamooj said the main issue of jobs, of tax restructuring and of the role of the State in becoming more effective in delivering public goods in a time of economic recession were some of the major domestic matters on which the debate began the conversation.
"We must recognise the direct relationship between Trinidad and Tobago's economy and that of the United States especially within the framework of the United States energy policy of wishing to be independent and what are the consequences of that policy being a reality to our revenue streams," he said.