warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Presidential Debate Takeaways From The Obama And Romney Encounters

Danny Lee |
October 23, 2012 | 2:24 p.m. PDT

Senior Staff Reporter

(Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy)
(Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy)

Over the course of three debates, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have squared off on domestic and foreign policy, while also fielding questions from undecided voters in a town hall format.

With two weeks remaining before Election Day, here is a rundown of some of the things that stood out from the three debates:

Economy Remains Dominant Theme

It did not take long for the debate on foreign policy to digress into a discussion on domestic issues, the number-one concern lingering on voters' minds this election. A Gallup poll showed that 37 percent of Americans said the economy is the top issue facing the country.

During Monday's debate, Romney managed to sneak in a reference to his five-point plan to rejuvenate the economy by creating jobs and helping small businesses. Obama touted his efforts to bolster education and tried to cast a negative light on Romney's time as governor.

Debate moderator Bob Schieffer said the unexpected shift in dialogue was "indicative of what they think the campaign ought to be about."

"This is their campaign, and I thought people ought to have the opportunity to see what they thought it should be about," Schieffer said.

Romney Revives Campaign

Romney's performance in the second and third debates appeared to be overshadowed by Twitter trends like #WomenInBinders and #HorsesAndBayonets, with voters giving Obama the edge in both.

SEE ALSO: Firing At 'Horses And Bayonets' Policies, Obama Sinks Romney

That being said, the former Massachusetts governor pulled his campaign back from the brink of extinction with a fiery first debate showing, aided by the president's insistence on playing Mr. Nice Guy. Romney successfully trimmed Obama's six-point lead coming out of the domestic policy debate, and even opened up a five-point lead in a recent Gallup poll.

Perception is everything, and Romney did just enough to pass the "presidential test" by dominating a first debate that supposedly covered his area of expertise. He may have been outclassed in the foreign policy discussion and had a slip-up when he said Syria was Iran's "route to the sea," but had nothing the magnitude of previous foreign policy gaffes involving the London Games and Russia.

Both Candidates Ho-Hum On Specifics

From Romney's vision to create 12 million jobs or Obama's blueprint for the next four years, the two candidates' plans for what they would do as president seemed to play second-fiddle to playing it safe and presenting a carefully-crafted image.

Romney has proposed cutting income taxes by 20 percent as part of his $5 trillion tax plan, but has not demonstrated how that would help reign in the deficit. His passivity during the third debate when he agreed with Obama on issues such as troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the use of drones to eliminate major U.S. threats also did little to dispel perceptions of him being a foreign policy novice.

SEE ALSO: Romney's Meek Agreement Tour

Although Obama was aggressive in exposing Romney's foreign policy shortcomings during their third debate, while also highlighting the auto bailout and the killing of Osama bin Laden, he still has work to do in convincing the few undecided voters remaining that he is fit to serve another four years.

America Cares

Voter apathy might not be a cause for concern if TV ratings are any indication.

More than 67.2 million people stuck around to watch the first debate between Obama and Romney across the various networks airing the showdown. The viewing numbers easily topped the first debate between Obama and John McCain in 2008, which generated 52.4 million viewers.

Nearly 66 million saw the second debate, while the third debate, going up against Game 7 of the NLCS playoff baseball game and the Lions-Bears football game, brought in 53.9 viewers, according to Nielsen. Figures for the first two debates surpassed all three Obama-McCain encounters from 2008.


Reach Senior Staff Reporter Danny Lee here; follow him on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.