Opinion Brief

The presidential debate: Did Mitt Romney win the argument over the economy?

The Romney campaign says its candidate outperformed President Obama on the No. 1 issue for voters

Mitt Romney has received some flak for his debate performance on Tuesday night, with both liberals and conservatives acknowledging that he flubbed a golden opportunity to attack President Obama for his administration's muddled response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. In addition, Romney didn't do himself any favors with his remarks about "binders full of women," or quibbling constantly about the debate rules. However, his campaign says Romney dominated on the most important issue of the night: The economy. Team Romney is "contending that the debate strengthened their position — and they may have a point," say Zeke Miller and McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed. A CNN insta-poll shows viewers favored Romney on "virtually every issue he's chosen to place at the center of his campaign, from handling of the economy and tax policy, to the deficit and health care." Did Romney win on the economy?

Yes. Obama can't escape the grim facts: Obama "countered Romney effectively," but Romney "was on his game" when it came to the economy, says Scott Galupo at The American Conservative. "For two minutes that seemed like five, Romney unleashed a torrent of horrible data on unemployment, underemployment, food stamps, poverty rates, and exploding deficits." There's no way to get around the reality of the situation. "The record is there, and Obama is lumbered with it."
"Obama won round 2 — will it matter?"

And Romney would have won if not for Libya: "Romney's botched response" on Benghazi "managed to grab the headline away from what would have been a near impeccable performance," says S.E. Cupp at the New York Daily News. Romney's litany of Obama's broken economic promises had "real resonance for those soft Obama voters who are disappointed in the president's record." Instead, "Libya isn't just the problem that won't go away for the president, it's [also] the problem that won't go away for Romney."
"Mitt Romney's debate performance: The good, the bad, and the ugly"

No. Obama shot holes through Romney's economic plan: "The most instructive contrast between Debate I and Debate II was the extent to which Romney's ideas crumbled at the slightest contact with challenge," says E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post. Obama nailed it when he described Romney's budget plan as a "sketchy deal," since it's literally impossible for Romney to implement his "radical tax-cutting program" and close the budget deficit at the same time. Romney's response? "'Believe me because I said so,'" which "gave his listeners no basis on which to verify the trust he demanded." 
"Romney goes from Etch a Sketch to sketchy"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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