Romney's good fight put Obama on the defensive
Democratic incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had a face-to-face confrontation Wednesday in Denver in their first televised debate ahead of the U.S. presidential election to be held on Nov. 6.
Presidential debates, three of which will be held this year, are important events that give voters a chance to evaluate the candidates based on aspects of how they look on TV, such as their expressions and demeanor, as well as what they debate.
The debates are critical for Romney to turn the tables on his rival as he sees the voters' support for him remain sluggish partly due to his own verbal lapses. As his approval ratings have been plummeting in closely contested states, there will be no hope for Romney to win the race if he fails in the debates.
In polls taken right after the debate, Romney appeared to be viewed as the winner, probably because his going aggressively on the offensive proved effective. It can be said the ultimate outcome of the race has become uncertain again.
Romney was in his element
Economic and domestic issues, the focus of the first debate, were where Romney, who has succeeded as a corporate executive, is at his strongest.
The U.S. economy is in a critical state. It has been unable to pull itself out of its slowdown, and the jobless rate remains high. No president has ever been reelected since the end of World War II with the jobless rate hovering in the 8-percent range.
The first debate proved advantageous for Romney as he criticized Obama's misadministration in the past four years, while Obama, aiming to be reelected, was forced onto the defensive.
Both candidates are being tested as to how they would realize a robust economic recovery and whether each can present any effective prescriptions to that end. In the debate, the differences in their policies have come to light once again.
Obama's stance attaches great importance to the role of the federal government in creating jobs. He put forward his cherished ideas, such as tax cuts for middle-income taxpayers; the rehiring of former teachers; investment in schools, roads and other public infrastructure; and expanded use of renewable energy.
Romney criticized Obama's budget policies as fiscal expansion, while emphasizing the need to enhance the private sector's vitality by making sizable tax cuts, including ones for upper-income households, and deregulation. He also renewed his public pledges to promote the nation's energy independence and create 12 million jobs.
Details needed on both sides
How can financial resources be secured? Or how can such a large-scale job creation be realized without economic stimulus measures through more government spending? In the economic stimulus measures put forward by the two candidates, there are more than a few that need to be worked out in detail.
U.S. fiscal deficits have topped the 1 trillion dollars mark for four fiscal years in a row. The challenge of putting the fiscal house in order is an important task on which no time can be wasted.
In his budget-cutting plan to trim the deficit, Obama does not treat national defense spending as an exception. But Romney opposes cuts in such spending. How will fiscal rehabilitation affect future U.S. military strategy, which attaches importance to Asia? This is also an issue that is related to the national security of Japan.
Diplomatic issues will be one of the topics covered in the second and third debates. U.S. policy toward China will probably become a major issue. We would like to pay close attention to how the debates turn out, as they may decide which side will win in the closely contested presidential race.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2012)