Friday, October 12, 2012

Post VP Debate analysis

Last night's debate went broadly as I had expected. The Vice President was far more aggressive than Ryan, frequently launching emotionally laden attacks on the Romney-Ryan platform. Biden also sought to clearly assert himself as the spokesman for Mr. 'Average Joe'. In contrast, Ryan tried to keep  his statements to policy details while attacking the Obama-Biden record.

A few things stood out for me.

1) Biden's innate grinning was relentless and made him look ridiculous while Ryan was speaking. Biden came across rude and arrogant - just look at the focus group data.

2) Biden was unable to articulate an Obama-Biden plan for deficit/debt reduction. There's a simple reason why, their plan doesn't exist. This failure formed part of a trend in which Biden sought to demagogue against Ryan instead of articulating counter proposals. The absurdity of Obama's 'change' narrative was on full display last night. In four short years, we have traveled from the pursuit of 'a new tone in Washington', to a celebration of unrepentant partisanship.

3) Obama-Biden's policy on Afghanistan is nuts. Biden aka 'the GRINch' resorted to constant repetitions of the Obama Administration's fundamental withdrawal timeline. Where Ryan talked about paying attention to ground conditions and military advice, for Biden it was clear that domestic politics came first. For me, Afghanistan represents the most stunning example of this President's hypocrisy. 2008 Obama claimed that 'he would win the right war, the war that 'Bush neglected', instead, success in Afghanistan has been subordinated to pleasing the Democratic base. There can be few strategic errors as profound as that of announcing a timeline for withdrawal to your enemy.

4) Ryan's answer to the abortion question gave a clear indication of the difficulty that Republicans have on this issue. On the one hand, Romney-Ryan understand that they must attract more female voters to the party. On the other, the candidates also understand that social conservatives are a highly reliable voting block that are concerned about a few key issues - abortion being one such issue. Ultimately, I do not believe that Romney-Ryan would have any interest in overturning Roe v Wade. They understand that most Americans (especially women) do not want the government engaged on such a controversial issue. I also think that many people misinterpret where the Supreme Court stands on abortion (Biden played to this misunderstanding). Yes, Justices like Scalia might oppose Roe v Wade, but they oppose it because they do not believe that there is a constitutional right to abortion. Scalia has stated explicitly that he believes abortion law is an issue for legislatures rather than for the courts. If Congress wants to legalize abortion - fine. If they want to restrict abortion - fine. Personally, I tend to take a more UK style approach to abortion - that the law should be rooted in science and the capacity for functioning life, rather than in culture battles over Privacy vs God. We should be focused on the economy and foreign policy.

5) From my perspective, Ryan was very strong on the economy. He quoted facts and suggested reforms. Biden applied scare tactics. I also find it interesting that Obama-Biden attack Romney-Ryan for not giving itemized details on their tax plan. Obama-Biden's tax plan is a complete joke. Obama-Biden's sums don't add up and their tax proposals would reinforce the worst elements of our complex, loophole laden tax code.

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