Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Online extra:
Romney delivers solid debate performance


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama take the stage at Wednesday's debate at the University of Denver.
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered a solid performance during Wednesday's debate, rebooting his campaign after several weeks of being on the defensive and behind in most polls.

On social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, even diehard LGBT supporters of President Barack Obama acknowledged that the first presidential debate was not his best performance.

No questions concerning LGBT issues were posed during the 90-minute debate at the University of Denver in Colorado, but Obama made a direct reference to one.

Near the end of the debate, responding to a charge from Romney that he has not worked well with Republicans, Obama pointed to a number of examples where his administration did work with Republicans with success. One example he cited was repeal of the ban on gays in the military.

Immediate reaction from many commentators – mainstream and LGBT – were that Romney dominated the debate and that Obama failed to take some political shots he had at his disposal.

Many observers remarked that Obama seemed tired and low-key and that Romney was comfortable and energetic. 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."

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of national Log Cabin Republicans, had a different view:

"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 debate moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS asked the candidates to share their view 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 has failing to work with both parties on important legislation, Obama 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. 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. That's how we went after al Qaeda and bin Laden."

Clark Williams, co-chair of the LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party, wrote on his Facebook page before the debate ended that he was ready to hand out grades.

"Romney, B+; Obama, B-; Lehrer, D," he wrote, echoing many pundits who felt that the moderator failed to maintain control over the debate.

Later, Williams urged his friends to keep things in perspective.

"Obama didn't collapse and this first 'joint press conference' was just one part of the conversation the president will be having with the American people," he wrote. "Obama 2012."

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