US Election: Presidential Debate Round Two

BY TARA MCEVOY

As the race for the White House comes to a conclusion, join Sonia Benhassine and Tara McEvoy as they analyse the three presidential debates.

The White House- HarshLight-Flickr

As the dust settled on round one of the pageantry and spectacle that is America’s presidential debates, the nation reflected that Romney had sailed ahead of Obama in the polls. Confidence, charm and his patented, practiced ‘zingers’ had all combined in the Republicans stealing Obama’s thunder. With things really heating up in the race to the seat of power, then, it was all to play for in the second presidential debate. To their credit, both candidates came out swinging – back with pomp, ceremony, shiny suits, Pan Am smiles, a liberal smattering of affected patriotism and enough ‘bending of the figures’ to send fact-checkers into fits of rage.

Not much had actually changed since the first debate – the only notable differences being the topic (domestic affairs with some nods to foreign policy) and layout of the venue (Hofstra University; town hall-style). The speakers were treated with the chance to be grilled by some audience members, who bizarrely appeared largely underwhelmed – (or terrified) – by the magnitude of the situation at hand.

Yet as soon as the debate proper kicked off, it was clear that aside from any formal changes, the thing that viewers would take away from the evening would be Obama’s renewed sense of determination and vigour. It’s previously been stated that the Democratic candidate is an orator, that debating isn’t his forte. We might well have believed this had we only had the first debate as evidence. Yet du

ring the second, regaining the ground he had lost in the first debate, the President debunked this assumption – everything from his newly confident posture to his frequent rebukes to Romney secured his position as eventual winner of round two.

As has been characteristic of much of the presidential race to date, the second debate centred around key issues such as both candidates’ obsession with the ‘squeezed middle’, fiscal questions and job creation. At times it was hard to escape the pressing notion that viewers were once again trapped in a vicious cycle of empty rhetoric – with Romney effectively blaming Obama on America’s financial state, and Obama hastily deflecting any notion of culpability.

Romney – assured at first – started to become flustered in the face of the president’s unyielding calm, and eventually looked as though he was grasping at straws as Obama’s newly forthright delivery bordered on the confrontational. While the Republican governor launched a series of scathing personal attacks, calling his opponent’s time in office a disappointment, and claiming that Obama’s re-election would place the US ‘on the road to Greece’, all it took for the President to maintain an air of authority was the occasional barely-contained eye roll, a disparaging grin and a well-placed jibe at Romney over the Republican campaign’s Big Bird fiasco.

Things dissolved further for the Massachusetts man when faced with tough questions about his environmental policies, and women’s reproductive and financial rights.

Yet ultimately, it was the contentious – and usually skirted-over – issue of gun crime which would unite the candidates in the wake of the public outcry over episodes such as the Aurora shootings.

As the evening drew to a close, the candidates seemed to have found fleeting common ground on some issues. Despite such apparent similarities, closing polls placed Obama back in front for the first time since the opening debate. The question now:  how long will his lead last?

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