Scores: Obama 77 | Romney 76
Judge: Wayne Jocic
This debate had no obvious winner. The variety of questions and the confusing spectacle of interaction between the candidates meant that neither could establish a clear advantage.
On the central economic issues, the candidates were evenly matched. Mitt Romney was superior on jobs. He carefully emphasised past troubles (particularly the 43 months of unemployment over 8%, and recent reductions in the labour force), but was plausibly optimistic about the future. Barack Obama, however, consistently raised questions about Romney’s tax plan and its consequences for the budget deficit. Romney failed to address these questions effectively.
Numerous issues of peripheral importance were heavily contested. Debate about what was or was not whispered in the Rose Garden was damaging for Romney. Arguably, though, Romney gained ground on other issues such as women in employment and immigration.
There was no clear winner on the substance of the debate. The candidates’ manner was thus critical. At the first instance of stand-up argument, there was a sense of physical concession as the shorter, less aggressive Obama resumed his seat. Yet the tactic was wise. Obama’s manner in these skirmishes was feisty but measured; Romney became by contrast too domineering and less likeable. In all the confusion of this town hall debate, Obama’s more appealing personal manner gave him an advantage which, though slight, was enough to win this close debate.