By Olivia Wolpe
Wednesday night marked the first of three debates for the 2012 presidential elections in the US. The debate, held at University of Denver in Colorado, targeted subject such as household income, federal debt, Medicare cuts, and unemployment. The two candidates addressed these issues, among others, during the hour and a half debate, moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS. Many are criticizing President Obama, the Democratic nominee, on his performance that night, critiquing his unenthusiastic speaking, his largely defensive stance, and an overall lack of enthusiasm throughout the evening. Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, presented an unexpectedly strong opposition. Governor Romney, who has faced embarrassment over recent public appearances, was articulate and came out on the offensive, playing off of Obama’s long-winded responses with his now infamous theatrical smirk. However, in a debate largely focused on numbers, both sides have come under fire for stretching their facts. This falsifying of records has unfortunately been an ongoing trend throughout the election as the battle between the two parties has become filled with personal attacks and focused less on the proposed policies. In response, fact checking groups such as FactCheck.org and the non-partisan watchdog group PolitiFact.com, began live commentary during the debate via social networking sites, citing which claims were true versus the statements that were highly exaggerated. However, in a recently published New York Times article, “Debates Can Shift a Race’s Outcome, but It’s Not Easy,” they revealed that rarely does the presidential debate sway the voting population from one direction to another. Whilst individuals might be disappointed in their candidate, rarely is it to the extent that they will vote against them. Two out of the past 27 televised debates have changed the course of the elections, most memorably in the 1960 debate John F. Kennedy versus Richard Nixon.
As I watched the debate and went over the recaps, I too found that while I was unimpressed with President Obama, as a strong supporter, I still remain fiercely loyal to the democratic candidate. As Election Day comes closer, I have been examining my political views, looking to see if they accord with the party I support. Upon inspection, I became aware that on issues such as Medicare, household income tax cuts, and deficit decrease, I remain woefully ignorant. However, these are the issues of which I feel no direct consequences. While I am not denying that they are crucial, I align myself based on issues that I hold most important. Governor Romney’s views on birth control, abortion, gay rights and his stance on foreign policy differ vastly from my own values. As a woman, I hold woman’s health and the right to her own body above all others. Not only do my views not align with Gov. Romney’s, it is with the Republican Party as a whole. Instances such as that which happened in August with Missouri Representative Todd Atkin and with Gov. Romney’s vow to pull all funding for Planned Parenthood, combined with others, have made this decision an easy one.
While policies and values have determined my support, there is no denying that strong personality quality, the “je ne sais quoi” factor that leads people in support of a candidate. The 1960 debate was largely affected by this charisma factor. With Nixon on stage, sweating and mumbling, people could not help but feel drawn towards JFK’s cool and crisp composure. Looking at the Romney family, I cannot help but feel a little… creeped out by the clan. The five, grown men looking stuffed into their matching outfits, the Ken and Barbie smiles plastered onto the faces of their parents. In contrast, every time I see the Obama family, I have the tendency to smile. While it might be clever campaigning or White House influence, there seems no denying the fact that this is one, happy, normal family. When I picture the ideal First Lady, I picture Michelle Obama with her brightly colored outfits, toned arms and her tone of reason. Add to this the public gaffs that Gov. Romney has faced: introducing VP nominee Paul Ryan as “the future President of the United States”; speaking lowly of middle-class Americans in the recent video released by Mother Jones magazine; the fact that he makes roughly $20 million a year. In comparison with President Obama’s easy demeanor, his pro-gay marriage stance, his basketball swag. This personality, combined with his policies, is what made him such a strong candidate in 2008 and which continues today.
It is likely that as I get older, my priorities will change and this could lead me to rethink my political stance, but as I sit here, with the absentee ballot in front of me, I have no hesitation about my decision.