THE BLOG
10/17/2012 09:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Presidential Debates: More Than Just 'Zingers'

Jorge Casanova is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

Many anticipated sparks of heated steel flying from President Obama and Mitt Romney as they took each other on this past week at the University of Denver. However, very few expected events to unravel in the manner they did, with the spotlight portraying Romney as a more aggressive character than the president and the moderator in some instances. When we look back at the specifics of the debate and how they weighed on the balancing scale, many expected the president to come out where Romney eventually did, as a more aggressive and competent debater which was not the case in this debate for President Barack Obama.

So why, why in the face of such certainty were so many Americans met with the unsatisfying results of a once fierce debater? The answer is not so simple. Democrats have formulated a few different answers, which to the Republicans are nothing but excuses. Many believed the president could not overcome the relentless Romney due to his debate coach, John Kerry. Who better to coach a man who had not debated in the past four years than the man who lost against Bush and created one of the greatest quotable political blunders "I was for it, before I was against it"? This argument extends to the fact that Kerry refused to challenge the president during the debate simulations as Romney did and the rationale behind that is the fact that Kerry seeks the office of secretary of state. Therefore, the blame would in that explanation would fall to Kerry for not adequately preparing the president for the debate. If Obama does get another four years, Kerry should not be at the top of the list for such an office after the mishap of his performance as debate coach to the aid of the Obama 2012 campaign.

Another popular explanation was the way the president had just arrived at the University of Denver before the debate within 24 hours before he went live. He was not used to the high altitudes of the area, as stated by Al Gore, and this may have affected his focus and debating skill. That can be argued to a certain extent, but in truth, it would not make or break of the performance of an incumbent presidential candidate because such an argument at level of politics is nothing but an excuse in the eyes of the American people.

Not long after the debate kicked off, a factual controversy arose between the President and Governor Romney. While talking about economic issues and tax policy, Obama suggested Romney plans to initiate a 5 trillion-tax cut that would be closed by tax loopholes and deduction. The only problem with that genius plan is that Romney's plan in this respect is hollow in the sense that Romney has been very vague on what he is going to cut yet he claims with such confidence that he is not proposing such a tax cut. This is by definition a half-truth. By 2015, the tax loss revenue would total $480 billion. Obama merely took that to the extreme worst case scenario by extending the theoretical tax cuts over 10 years, after which his suggestion would become valid. The idea, however, is correct; the big question stands, where would one gain the lost revenue so that one could end up reaching Romney's goal of "not adding to the deficit"? Is it Romney's plan of massive Spending cuts? Maybe, but Obama was completely on ball when he stated how Romney plans to add 2 trillion more to the defense spending budget than defense had even asked for throwing Governor Romney's plan into huge speculation.

In the following days, many of my peers asked me if I had seen the debate. I simply answered "Yes." The question was usually followed by the question of who won, to which I usually replied stating that the only different between a presidential debate and a WWE cage match is that the referee was much more in control than, say, moderator Jim Lehrer and that there was no clear winner. The problem with Romney was his lack of knowledge of when to hit the brakes with his speech. It was reasonable to attempt to grill the president during the debate, but it became a question of confidence versus pure aggression when he started ignoring the moderator. I will admit that neither of the candidates gave much leeway to Lehrer to control the debate, but Romney constantly complained about not "having the last word" or being able to "getting a few more seconds in."

With Election Day closing in, people need to commit to watch the rest of these debates, as every move by both candidates are will be watched. It is my hope that we will pay attention to what was said and how it will affect said candidate's policies rather than who had the biggest zinger during the debate.