As the party faithful prepare for tonight’s final presidential debate between Democratic President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Governor Mitt Romney, the value of these debates is being weighed by local representatives of the two parties.
And it’s not surprising they each feel their nominee is making inroads with those undecided voters through these debates.
The final debate begins at 9 p.m. at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, and the night is supposed to focus on foreign policy.
At the first debate on Oct. 3, many believed President Obama gave a lackluster performance and was out-shined by an aggressive Romney.
The second debate, a town hall format held Oct. 16, saw both men taking an aggressive stance, to the point of arguing, finger pointing and talking over one another as the moderator tried to break in. Some political observers thought Obama “over-corrected” and came on too strong.
“I believe that Mitt Romney has done an excellent job in debating President Obama so far. The polls that came out after the first debate proved that the American Electorate have grown in their confidence of Mitt Romney,” said Joshua T. Austin Sr., chairman of the Richmond County GOP.
“President Obama did have a lackluster performance in the first debate. This is a fact that many Democrat pundits pointed out and it hurt him significantly in the polls,” said Austin. “Romney deserved an A+ in the first debate because he shed light on President Obama’s record on the economy and it didn’t fare well for President Obama. When Romney went after President Obama and the millions of dollars of taxpayer money that went to the now-bankrupt Solyndra as part of President Obama’s clean energy strategy, it really shed light on how much of our money is being wasted on these liberal ideals. It cost jobs and put the country in further debt with no return whatsoever.”
Jane Layton, chair of the Richmond County Democratic Party, stands by Obama and defended his showing in that first debate, noting his demeanor was “presidential,” and fitting for the office.
“I found Barack Obama to have responded in a very presidential manner. He carried himself that evening with dignity and integrity. He demonstrated to the American people his ability to handle himself under pressure with calm fortitude. In my opinion, he answered the mediator’s questions with straightforward answers; however, Mitt Romney’s interjections and abruptness overshadowed the president’s responses in the first debate … .”
Layton does acknowledge that the president took a different approach in the second match up with Romney.
“President Obama took off the gloves, so to speak, in the second debate and bounced back meeting his opponent blow for blow,” Layton said. “I find it ironic that the Republicans are now implying the president was rude or wrong to respond in kind to Romney’s tactics. President Obama successfully demonstrated during the second debate that Mitt Romney was denying his own plan to cut Pell grants to our college students, disowning his signature tax cut proposals, and attempting to distort the president’s foreign record policy.”
Austin’s view of the second debate is of a president on the defensive.
“The second debate showed President Obama in a more aggressive state, yet still trying to defend his policies which have not helped the American economy and has only gotten us further in debt,” said Austin. “President Obama tried his best to clarify his administration’s stance on the Benghazi attack in Libya. Again, he didn’t admit that his administration was knowingly lying to the American people about what, as proven, they knew about the attack which was that it was a terrorist attack. He tried to say that he called the Benghazi incident a terrorist attack when the words he used were ‘No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this Great Nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for’ … “
Austin said Obama made that statement without directly referring to the Benghazi attack. “Had he meant that, why would his administration continue saying that an uprising over a video was what sparked the attack? Officials within his own administration have admitted that they knew all along that this was a terrorist attack,” he said.
Layton characterizes President Obama as consistent.
Why? “ … Because he told the people his policies would halt the spiraling unemployment rate and mortgage foreclosures and they did. He said he would pull out of Iraq and begin withdrawal from Afghanistan and he has. He said he would hunt down Osama bin Laden and he did. He says he will locate and seek justice for the killings in Libya and I believe he will.
“Therefore, I also believe his plan for a balanced, steady growth of the economy will work also,” Layton said.
Austin and Layton were asked, what does their candidate need to do in the last debate to earn votes from the undecided.
“Since the final debate’s format will focus on foreign policy, I believe President Obama’s record will speak for itself,” said Layton. “The Republicans shout that his policies have not worked. To the contrary, they have worked very well, and nowhere has he been more successful than in his foreign policy.”
Layton said, not only has the president pursued the war on terror with determination and success, but he’s cultivated a much “warmer” relationship with our European allies.
“He has supported Israel, but has not abandoned efforts for peace in the Middle East and relief for the Palestinian people,” Layton said. “He has supported efforts to end our dependency on foreign oil. And most importantly, he has brought our troops home from Iraq and sponsored a policy which will bring withdrawal from Afghanistan in a reasonable time. President Obama’s leadership has made America stronger and safer than we were four years ago. Mitt Romney has nothing to offer in Monday’s final debate format except a record of blunders and a commitment to endless war.”
Austin sees things differently.
“The final debate is supposed to be about foreign policy. President Obama’s only legitimate accomplishment is the killing of Osama bin Laden. He has alienated the leadership of Israel. He has allowed and done nothing to stand in the way of Iran building nuclear weapons and spends too much time going around the world apologizing for what he says are America’s wrongdoings. All Romney has to do is speak about the failures and lack of action in President Obama’s foreign policy and he wins this debate,” said Austin.
The local party chairs discussed the impact of these 2012 debates.
“In the end I do believe these debates will help our independents, unaffiliated and otherwise undecided voters make up their minds,” Layton said. “These debates have the potential to reach a great many people across the country in a format that allows our undecided voters a way to gauge the two opposing viewpoints … In my opinion, this is an important crossroads election and a close race. The upcoming debate could definitely be a historic one. Americans need to be watching,” she said.
Austin believes, for the most part, the election is done deal.
“Most voters have made up their mind and the polls are increasingly tilting toward Mitt Romney,” Austin said. “I believe that the American people are smart and know that we literally can’t afford to lay more debt at the doorstep of our children and grandchildren and Mitt Romney has a proven record that qualifies him to pull our great nation out of this recession. I think the American people see this and will make the right choice on Election Day,” he said.