Campaign Commentary

Partisan bickering has become both vicious and commonplace throughout the entire the U.S. political system, so many expected fireworks at last Wednesday’s debate. However, it was decidedly tame: what happened? In a two-party system, both Democrats and Republicans can count on their base to support them. That, of course, leaves a desperate fight for the center: the Independent. The fight for Independents is essential, but it causes the parties to tone down the rhetoric and promises that shore up their own base since this could turn off an undecided voter. Republican nominee Mitt Romney pulled off the switch, President Obama could not. Many pundits agreed that former Governor Romney won the debate, while Democrats felt that Romney had openly lied about his tax plans and stances on many issues. However, it would appear that Romney might have gone back to his days as Massachusetts governor. Let’s not forget, this is the same Mitt Romney who laid the groundwork for “Obamacare,” whether he likes to admit it or not. In fact, he took plenty of heat for his similarities to President Obama throughout the Republican nomination contest. One easy lens through which to look at the debate is to say that Romney lied. However, it seems that Romney reverted back to his old self, the Republican moderate. It appears that Romney may have become more right-wing to win the Republican nomination and stir up his base. This leaves many wondering who the genuine Mitt Romney is. President Obama wasn’t as successful in his attempt to appeal to the center. He avoided hitting Romney hard on his campaign blunders, including his 47 percent comment, which angered his base. However, this could have been a deliberate strategy to win the moderate voter. Obama did choose his words carefully, albeit too carefully. He appeared aloof and unengaged. He tried to tow the line too much, which not only offended Democrats, but did not hit a chord with the average undecided voter. This became more poignant when Obama finally attacked Romney from a Democratic rally the next day. He saved his words nationally, but attacked when it would have the effect of raising Democrat morale. Romney and Obama both seemed eerily similar on the middle class. And that’s the nature of the game. Both wanted to appear to represent that large segment of the electorate. Both parties promised lower taxes for the middle class. Both parties offered similar responses on Social Security. In fact, the president said, “I suspect that on Social Security we’ve got somewhat similar views.” Does that sound as if the president is trying to distance himself from the Republicans? Yes, both parties have fundamental differences, but those will be saved for the attack ads. Expect a moderate tone from both President Obama and former Governor Romney for the rest of the debates. Neither of them can afford to become too partisan. They simply can’t tow the Republican and Democrat lines and expect any support from that crucial undecided voter. It’s the same reasoning that causes most American states to be ignored throughout the election build-up. They’re safe votes. That’s why the debate turned out the way it did. It’s the nature of the system.

BY MICHAEL SCOTT scot0459@d.umn.edu

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