Six weeks ago, the claim that Mitt Romney had a chance at winning the election was laughable. Obama was polling several points ahead and the pundits predicted he would win by a landslide. The debates marked a turning point for Mitt Romney. While Obama is recognized as one of the world’s most eloquent orators, Mitt Romney is not known for his ability to wow a crowd. And sure, Mitt let a few awkwardly-phrased comments slip (“binders full of women,” for example), but he managed to turn the election into an incredibly close race by winning the debate series. I’m here to tell you why he won and how he pulled it off.
Romney won the blame game. Obama tried to shift the blame of his four failed years to his predecessor and has insisted that Mitt Romney’s election will mean a return to the failed policies of the Bush administration. Mitt Romney won this blame game by 1) holding Obama accountable for the policy failures of his administration and 2) differentiating himself from President Bush.To hold the President accountable for the state of the economy, Mitt Romney emphasized that, four years ago, the sitting President promised recovery and failed to deliver. And what made this even easier for Mitt is that Obama didn’t defend himself! He didn’t even attempt to prove why his economic policies were effective or lay out any concrete plans for how he will address the economic woes the American people face today. A little tax hike for the top two percent is not going to magically employ 23 million people. Romney knows this and offered an articulate five-point plan for real economic recovery.While many Americans are unhappy about the direction of the country over the past four years, there is very little nostalgia for the Bush days. Voters fear electing another Republican means a return to aggressive foreign policy and reckless spending — Obama knows this and has consistently tried to align Romney with Bush. Romney distinguished himself from Bush through his emphasis on peace through strength and bringing home the troops. Additionally, he shed light on the difference between Bush’s big business focus and his own small business focus. While Obama tried to pin Romney down as another Bush, Romney successfully dodged this attempt.
Romney won the audience. You can’t win a debate without winning the audience. While Romney’s likability ratings shot up above Obama’s following the debates, what is more important is that Romney used the debate series to show his passion for restoring America. In the first debate, a prepared and energetic Romney faced a disinterested and exhausted Obama. Romney’s sense of humor appealed to voters who may have previously labeled him as robotic, and his calm executive style trumped Obama’s disengaged stupor. During the second debate, Romney was forceful and confrontational as he articulated the failures of Obama’s economic policies. Additionally, he called Obama out on his lack of honesty with the American people regarding the recent terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Even when the moderator jumped to Obama’s defense, Romney remained calm despite an audience outcry. A morning fact-check showed that the President had indeed been unclear about the tragedy. In the third debate, Obama was aggressive and enraged. His demeanor was anything but presidential. Conversely, Romney was in control and refused to let Obama drag him into an angry quarrel. Romney demonstrated a clear contrast between the last four years and his plan for the next four years. He reflected on his bipartisanship in Massachusetts and the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together. Most importantly, he showed optimism for a better tomorrow.
Romney framed the election around the economy. Obama constantly tried to run from his economic record, and Romney didn’t let him get away with it. While Obama may have good intentions for fairness and justice in the workplace, it doesn’t change the fact that 23 million Americans are unable to find work. The underperforming economy is the leading cause of the woes Americans face today. A recent Gallup poll showed that 72 percent of voters see the economy as the biggest issue of the election — so why did Obama keep changing the subject in the debates? Romney is, first and foremost, a business leader with deep knowledge of how companies work. He stressed the need for a tax code that incentivizes job creation. By highlighting the similarities between his foreign policy and Obama’s foreign policy objectives in the third debate, Romney framed the election around the economy and played to his own strengths. He demonstrated how he will apply his own knowledge of the private sector in a five-point plan that will create 12 million new jobs, and emphasized that the failed policies of the Obama administration have left 7.9 percent of people out of work. That should give the 23 million unemployed Americans a reason to head to the polls on Tuesday.The polling gap between Obama and Romney has essentially vanished after the debates. The debate series completely changed the political landscape for the election. If Mitt Romney wins this Tuesday, it is because he won the debates.
Jessica Reif is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She is the Chair of the Cornell University College Republicans and a member of the Cornell Forensic Society. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original Author: Jessica Reif