The latest CNN/ORC poll indicates that 46 percent of people thought that President Obama won the debate, compared to 39 percent for Governor Romney. However, this 7 percent disparity fell within the margin of error.
After Tuesday night's intense debate, there is certainly a lot to dissect. But in the interest of concision, there is a short answer: Regardless of who "won," one thing was for certain -- Romney continued to hold Obama's feet the fire.
Sure, Obama came out much stronger during this debate, arguably over-compensating for his weak performance a couple of weeks ago. For instance, Obama poked real holes in Romney's tax plan.
But lets be clear, candid, and truly nonpartisan about both candidate's tax plans -- neither of them quite "add up", at least not based upon the little details we have at this point in the election (which I may "add", is only 21 days away).
Romney's plan will still result in a deficit, as there are not enough non-middle class deductions to recoup the revenue needed for his budget. Likewise, Obama's plan will still result in a deficit, as there are not enough rich people to tax to collect the revenue needed for his budget.
Given that the economy, jobs, and a balanced budget are at the top of the docket of pressing issues in the eyes of most American voters, this is hardly reassuring.
What Romney has going for him though is this -- he has no presidential record. Obama's record invites criticism, and Romney wasted little opportunity to highlight this glaring reality.
Obama on the other hand, resorted to focusing on Romney's policy inconsistencies, for example, juxtaposing Romney's now pro-coal stance against the "coal kills" stance he held during his tenure as the Governor of Massachusetts.
While this is certainly tough to reconcile, Obama is nevertheless guilty of a cardinal political sin -- dodging direct questions about his own political failings.
As an independent (and a currently undecided voter), I found some of Romney's points tough to ignore:
Obama promised to cut the deficit in half -- it has been at least one trillion dollars over each of the past four years; Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform during his first year -- nothing was put forth; Obama promised Medicare and Social Security reform -- nothing was put forth; Obama promised to get unemployment down to below 6 percent -- it is at 7.8 percent, the same number as the day he took office; Obama promised to grow the economy -- it has grown less and less over recent years.
I know what you're probably thinking -- I sound like a Republican. Perhaps, but only because in this specific instance, I find myself saying, "Obama, you had your chance." That's not to say he doesn't deserve a second one, or that Romney's vision for the country will leave us in a better state four years from today.
But it does make me justified in demanding a different narrative from Obama -- one that is more focused on defending his own record, on presenting a clear vision of how he would address the problems left unresolved from his first term, and less focused on painting Romney as the quintessential political enigma.
Don't just c0nvince me that Romney is the wrong man for the job -- convince me that you are the right man for the job! This sentiment was best expressed by one of the last town hall questions, and Obama has yet to win me over in this regard.
Granted, Obama earned some points, mainly on topics such as immigration, guns, and women's equality in the workforce. Again, Obama was light on specifics for these issues, often dovetailing into the importance of education and growing the economy from the middle-out.
Echoed generalities aside, he did seem to command the attention of female voters when he attacked Romney on his previously stated plans to cut federal expenditures to Planned Parenthood. Suffice it to say, this should serve him well once the realities of the electoral landscape unfurl.
Thanks in part to moderator Candy Crowley, Obama was able to score another debate point tonight as well. Romney was mistaken about Obama's initial statement on the attack on our Libyan Consulate. However, as Crowley pointed out immediately thereafter, Romney was correct that Obama took two weeks to decisively conclude that it was a terrorist attack.
This point, mired in trivial details, is not really all that relevant to the central question behind this particular foreign policy issue -- did we screw up and drop the proverbial ball on this one? Thankfully, we get to hear about foreign policy in full during the next debate.
And as we head into the third and final round, I find myself increasingly curious about something else besides what the specifics are behind the platitudes of each of their respective visions: What on Earth do they actually say to each other when they shake hands before each debate? Darn, there I go again, getting distracted by partisan politics.