Second Presidential Debate: Who Won?

October 17, 2012

(Transcript of the debate)

In my opinion, having watched it, Romney won the debate last night.  The CNN poll* says Obama beat Romney, 46-39, but that’s probably partly because of this moment:

President Obama claimed that he had called Benghazi an “act of terror” the very next day, in the Rose Garden.  Romney said that “it took the president fourteen days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”  Obama said that we can all read the transcript for ourselves.  The moderator, apparently eager to show off how much she had read up on the issues before the debate, injected herself into their debate and said that Obama was right.  John Fund had some strong words about that:

Crowley’s intervention will leave an incomplete and false impression with many debate viewers. The time for “fact-checking” is after a debate, not during it. Previous debate moderators knew better.

But Crowley and Obama were wrong, and Romney was right, as Commentary magazine commented more than two weeks ago:

Obama said during the speech that “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation” — but at no point was it clear that he was using that term to describe the attack in Benghazi. He’d also spent the previous two paragraphs discussing the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath. “Acts of terror” could have just as easily been a reference to that. Or maybe it wasn’t a direct reference to anything, just a generic, reassuring line he’d added into a speech which did take place, after all, the day after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. . . .

If Obama wanted to call the Benghazi assault a terrorist attack in that speech, he had plenty of opportunities to do so. Instead, he described it as a “terrible act,” a “brutal” act, “senseless violence,” and called the attackers “killers,” not terrorists.

Obama said we could look at the transcript for ourselves.  I did, and Commentary is right, that’s the only time “terror” appears in the speech.  (Katrina Trinko, two, and Eliana Johnson offer additional proofs.)

More important than the hairsplitting that the debate got mired in, about the use of a particular word in a particular speech, is that Romney was unquestionably right about the larger point, as Crowley herself basically admits.  As Commentary puts it,

For a week after this speech, the White House would not call it a terrorist attack. The official position was that Libya was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam film, not a premeditated or preplanned act.

The Obama administration’s contributions also included asking Youtube to take down the video and, in a midnight raid, taking the filmmaker in for “voluntary” questioning.

There is so much more to say about Benghazi and the Obama administration, but unfortunately I simply don’t have the time.  All I can say is, Consume some conservative media and inform yourself.

On oil:  Obama said that oil production was up; Romney said that it was up on private lands, no thanks to the government, but down on government lands, by 14%.  Obama replied, “It’s just not true.”  But again, Romney was right and Obama was wrong, as Katrina Trinko and Mario Loyola review in National Review Online’s The Corner.

On abortion:  I couldn’t believe that Obama repeated the old claim that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms:

As Wintery Knight discusses, and as I discussed a year and a half ago, Planned Parenthood clinics do not do mammograms.  Eliana Johnson at National Review Online also checked—they still don’t.

It’s one thing to think that abortion is OK or that it shouldn’t be against the law; it’s another to force the rest of us (who don’t think it’s OK) to pay for it, as the government has been doing for years by subsidizing Planned Parenthood, and as the Obama administration is doing more directly with the HHS mandate.  Note that this is the official policy of the Democratic Party, in the platform—not only must there be abortion, but the rest of us must be forced to pay for it.

Incidentally, Obama brought up the HHS mandate in the debate, and Romney didn’t respond forcefully, which I suppose indicates that both candidates think it’s a political winner for Obama.  Like Ramesh Ponnuru, I find that difficult to believe.  I would have liked Governor Romney to say something like, If I am elected, I will not try to outlaw the church.

On illegal immigration:  I thought Mitt Romney stood strong, which was encouraging, and a little surprising.  I remember that Ann Coulter argued during the primaries that Romney was among the most solid two or three candidates on the issue of immigration, and maybe she was right.  Note that E-verify, one thing Romney explicitly stood by, is also in the Republican platform.

Additions (October 18th, 2012—also added Eliana Johnson re Planned Parenthood above and corrected grammar in paragraph about Rose Garden speech):

On imaginary discrimination:  An audience member asked a question that presumed the “gender gap”—that women are, in the twenty-first century, paid less than men for the same work.  As Carrie Lukas discusses, this is incorrect, even lazy:

The wage gap statistic . . . doesn’t compare two similarly situated co-workers of different sexes, working in the same industry, performing the same work, for the same number of hours a day.  It merely reflects the median earnings of all men and women classified as full-time workers.

(Read the whole thing.)  Ramesh Ponnuru explains it as well, but I still think the best explanation is that offered by Thomas Sowell in his book The Vision of the Anointed (pages 38-40).

Perhaps the clearest proof that the gender gap isn’t real is that, by that measure, the Obama White House itself “discriminates” against women, apparently paying them only about 82% of what it pays male White House employees.

President Obama took credit for doing something about this imaginary problem, namely injecting lawyers into it, because God knows Americans weren’t suing each other enough already.  “The first bill I signed was something called the Lily Ledbetter bill,” Obama said.

But people could already sue for alleged sex discrimination.  Ponnuru recommends this detailed discussion of distortions and false statements Obama has been making for years about the law and about the Supreme Court case he mentioned last night.

Overall:  You can read several others’ thoughts at National Review Online’s The Corner; many of them call it a draw or concede that “Obama won on points”, “But the voters who decided 2 weeks ago that Romney was not the unacceptable alternative they’d been warned about saw nothing tonight to change that impression.”

Additional thoughts from Mark Steyn:

Re Arizona’s supposed crackdown on illegal immigration, President Obama just said he objected to asking people for ID because he wouldn’t want somebody asking his daughter for her papers just because they thought she might not be a citizen. Very touching, I’m sure.

My own daughter is required by federal law to have her Green Card on her at all times, even when she’s walking in the woods behind our house. Indeed, only the other month, a snotty twerp of a Customs officer at Derby Line, Vt., threatened me that, if ICE agents came to my daughter’s school and she didn’t have her Green Card on her, they could deport her.

But then she’s merely a legal immigrant, rather than one of the sainted “undocumented.”


If you’re wondering what all that butch talk from Obama and Biden about seeing that the Benghazi perps are “brought to justice” actually boils down to, here’s a clue:

Though it happened in 2000, Mr Pohl is still working on the case relating to the suicide attack that left 17 American soldiers dead on board the U.S.S. Cole.

Hey, what’s the hurry?

Hat tip to Wintery Knight, who had his first blog entry on the debate out within an hour or two, and who has linked to a number of helpful sources.


* I think it’s shady that mainstream news media like CNN have made a practice of changing their news story and leaving no indication that anything was changed.  For whatever it’s worth, here are two versions of this CNN story in their entirety (minus the graphics, and ads for other CNN content).  The first is from last night, marked 11:46 p.m., while the second is how the story appears as of this writing; both appear under the same URL.

First version:

BREAKING: CNN Poll: Obama edges Romney in debate
Posted by
CNN Political Unit

(CNN) – Debate watchers were divided on who won the second presidential debatebetween President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to a new nationwide poll released late Tuesday night.

The CNN/ORC International survey indicates 46% of debate watches say Obama won the debate, while 39% say Romney fared better. The seven-point margin falls within the poll’s sampling error.

Meanwhile, 73% said Obama did better than expected, compared to 37% who said the same about Romney.

The results offer a stark contrast from the first presidential showdown on October 3, when 67% of debate watchers said Romney fared better while 25% said Obama won the debate.

In their second of three debates, Obama and Romney faced off Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley moderated the event.

Both candidates were on the offensive in the 90-minute showdown. The heated exchange was marked by multiple interruptions and forceful attack lines launched by both candidates.

For the survey, 457 registered voters who watched the debate were interviewed by telephone on Tuesday. All interviews were conducted after the end of the debate. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Looking at party breakdown, 33% said they were Republicans and 33% said they were Democrats.

Second version:

CNN Poll: Split decision on debate
Posted by
CNN Political Unit

Hempstead, New York (CNN) – Give a slight edge to President Barack Obama.

Forty-six percent of voters who watched Tuesday night’s presidential debate said that the president won the showdown, according to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted right after Tuesday night’s faceoff here at Hofstra University on New York’s Long Island. Thirty-nine percent questioned said Republican nominee Mitt Romney did the better job.

Obama’s seven-point advantage came among a debate audience that was somewhat more Republican than the country as a whole and is within the survey’s sampling error.The president’s edge on the question of who won the debate appears to be the result of his much better than expected performance and his advantage on likeability. But the poll also indicates that debate watchers said Romney would do a better job on economic issues. And the two candidates were tied on an important measure – whether the showdown would affect how the debate watchers will vote. Nearly half said the debate did not make them more likely to vote for either candidate, with the other half evenly divided between both men.

Tuesday night’s poll only reflects the view of voters who watched the debate, not the views of all Americans. The reactions of all voters across the country to the second presidential debate must wait until polls are conducted in the coming days.

Nearly three quarters of debate watchers felt that Obama performed better than they had expected, with just one in ten saying that the president did worse. Only 37% said that the former Massachusetts governor did a better job in the debate than they had expected, with 28% saying Romney performed worse than they had expected prior to the faceoff, and one in three saying he performed the same as they expected.

According to the survey, Obama had a 47%-41% edge on which candidate was more likeable. But on some key issues, Romney came out on top, including an 18-point lead on the economy.

“Mitt Romney was seen as better able to handle the economy, taxes, and the budget deficit among the debate audience, but it seems that issues were trumped, or at least blunted, by intangibles, including the expectations game,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

By a 49%-35% margin, debate watchers thought that Obama spent more time attacking his opponent. The president was expected to be more forceful in attacking Romney following his lackluster performance in the first presidential debate in Denver two weeks ago.

Other questions showed little daylight between the two candidates among debate watchers on some key characteristics. Romney had a 49%-46% edge on which candidate seemed to be the stronger leader and 45%-43% margin on who answered questions more directly, while Obama had a 44%-40% advantage on which man seemed to care more about the audience members who asked questions.

Debate watchers were divided on whether Romney offered a clear plan for solving the country’s problems, with more than six in ten saying the president didn’t offer a clear plan.

What will it all mean in November?

On that measure, the debate can best be described as a tie. One-quarter of debate-watchers said the event made them more likely to vote for Obama, and an equal amount said it made them more likely to vote for Romney. Half said it would have no effect on their vote.

The sample of debate-watchers in this poll was 33% Democratic and 33% Republican.

“That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about eight points more Republican than polls taken among all Americans throughout 2012, so the debate audience was more Republican than the general public,” added Holland. “This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate.”

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC, with 457 registered voters who watched the debate questioned by telephone after the end of the debate. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

By a 37%-30% margin, a CBS News poll conducted after the second debate also indicated that Obama won the showdown.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

4 Responses to “Second Presidential Debate: Who Won?”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    I knew it!

  2. Path Isel Says:

    Actually I have to agree that, since Planned Parenthood gives the breast exam, and then writes you a referral to see a doctor, and it is paid for by them, that they truly provide you with the mammogram. Just because they do not have the machines on site, is like saying that because you go off site for an MRI that you didn’t get one from your doctor. If he/she is the one that ordered it, then truly they are the ones that got it for you. I realize that you will think that what I say is not true, but these women would not get the mammograms if it were not for the Planned Parenthood medical exam.

  3. […] “Second Presidential Debate: Who Won?” […]

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