By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
Last week, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney held their first of three presidential debates. The Daily Journal’s Chris Kieffer asked Mississippi State University Associate Professor of Communication Kevin Williams to analyze the first debate and discuss what the two candidates must do in the future.
Q: What were Obama’s and Romney’s strengths in this debate?
A: Mitt Romney’s strength is that he can argue against the actual record of President Obama. He can and did point to specific policies and strategies, be it Obamacare or the funding of Green Energy, that he finds to be detrimental to the country. He has the benefit of discussing the failures of an incumbent when the economy really is in a bad place. Obama’s best points of the night were when he spoke of the unexplainable math that Romney is using to come up with his proposed financial plan. No one really had a stellar moment here. There was no “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy!” or “There you go again” moment in this debate.
Q: What were Obama’s and Romney’s weaknesses in this debate?
A: Romney’s greatest weakness in the debate is the weakness he has been struggling with the entire time: he doesn’t give the specifics as to how his budget adds up. His use of verbal judo in trying to explain where he’s getting his math from only confuses voters more. Obama’s weakness was the key element in the whole debate to me. He never pulled the trigger. Obama seems content with his lead and displayed no real passion or desire to fight. With all the statements and gaffes that Romney has committed lately (the poor should just use the ER/ the 47 percent he’s given up on/ college students should get their loans from their parents), Obama could have gone on the offensive against Romney. Also Obama seemed uneasy with his words. He paused often when talking, as if he was choosing his words too carefully.
Q: What does each need to do in the next debates?
A: Obama must attack. Romney must give specifics. Visually and audibly, both candidates are fine. There don’t seem to be any presentation issues. But both should show more clarity and brevity in making their claims. It seemed as though no matter what question the moderator asked, the candidates simply rambled through their talking points. It honestly made the debate seem stale, uninspired and dispassionate. Undecided voters don’t need another stump speech. The candidates should realize good moderators provide questions which allow an undecided voter to make an informed choice. Jim Lehrer was trying to get the candidates to speak about key differences, but they controlled him instead of letting him guide them. Eventually, as the incumbent, Obama will have to offer a valid reason why undecided voters should believe he can do things more effectively in the next four years than he was able to in the last.