In the first presidential debate in Denver, Colorado, President Barack Obama came out flat while Gov. Mitt Romney had some effective arguments, according to local Democrats and Republicans from across Massachusetts who joined in a Patch live chat during the debate on Tuesday night.
"Overall, tie goes to Obama," said Democrat Alex Buck. "Romney had a couple good lines, but nothing hugely productive. He looked jittery and possibly his most memorable line was about Big Bird."
Reader (and Governor's Council candidate) Tom Sheff added late in the debate, "No defining moment so far, that's for sure."
As the debate opened on the economy, Romney took an early upper hand according to both the Democrats and Republicans who joined the chat as panelists.
"President seemed nervous, and missed the mark on a direct answer to the jobs question," Democrat Mike Festa said.
Democrat Buck argued that Romney's use of the term "'economy tax' misses the key component of being easy to understand."
As Obama spoke about middle-class tax cuts under his administration, Republicans pushed back by pointing to the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare.
"Obama says he cut taxes, but Obamacare added all kinds of taxes," said Republican Patty Locke.
Rosemary Smedile referenced the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the individual mandate included in the Affordable Care Act: "Obamacare is a tax according to the Supreme Court, Mr. President."
Romney's line on the deficit—"I think it's a moral issue"—drew applause from a GOP crowd and shouts of "Yay Mitt!" at a Republican debate viewing party in Newton, according to Patch editor Chris Helms.
Buck agreed that calling the deficit a moral issue "was a good line," but added, "Should *not* have mentioned Big Bird."
As the candidates debated the economy, Lizbeth DeSelm, a liberal-libertarian, argued, "Our economy is consumer based. It is a vicious cycle. We need more jobs, to buy more things, to increase more revenue and manufacturing, which will then create more jobs. It take money to make money doesn't it?"
Jumping off an Obama line about Romney not endorsing a plan exchanging $10 in spending cuts for $1 in revenue, Patch ran an unscientific poll asking panelists and readers participating in the live chat, "Would you trade $10 worth of cuts for $1 worth of additional taxes/revenue?" Sixty-three percent said "yes," 23 percent said "no" and 14 percent said "unsure."
As the candidates moved onto entitlements, DeSelm said, "I'd like to point out that a huge number of people on government support of some sort or another are those who served our country in the Armed Services. We have to keep that in mind when we talk about removing 'entitlements.'"
Obama started to gain some momentum according to Democrats when speaking about entitlements. Festa said, "Obama's balanced approach is compelling ... classroom example too"
Patch editor Melanie Graham reported that Romney saying that 42 percent of the Spanish economy is spent on government and "I don't want to go down the path to Spain" drew some groans here at a Newton Democrats' debate viewing party.
Democrat Shawn Fitzgibbons questioned the wisdom of Obama using the term "entitlements."
"'Entitlements'—things that you are OWED because you BOUGHT them," he said. "Bad term. A Republican one. You put money in to receive a benefit later—you own the benefit. It's not a handout."
Festa also questioned Obama not drawing a clearer distinction between his approach and Romney's approach to Social Security.
"Obama: security differences with Romney not big ... does that help Romney?" he asked, adding that Obama's family story was "too long."
As the candidates debated Medicare, DeSelm said that the $716 billion from the program that Obama described as "savings" in Obamacare and Romney described as a "cut" is the "exact same as in the (Republican Vice President candidate Paul) Ryan budget."
Festa called Romney's Medicare argument "weak" and liked Obama embracing the term "Obamacare."
"Romney: Medicare choices for younger is good competition ... Obama retort on admin costs excellent," Festa said.
Regulation and Obamacare
On the topic of regulation, DeSelm said, "I would like Romney to give an instance of where regulation is needed, where it isn't and where it is outdated."
Patch editor Melanie Graham reported that Democrats at the viewing party in Newton were "shushing Romney as he jumps in," quoting, "He's so rude!" In the live chat, Democrat Jeremy J. Comeau used the same characterization.
"Romney is quite rude!" he said. "There is a moderator for a reason. If you want more time spend your own money on ads!"
However, Festa gave Romney points for his comments on big banks and his argument about Obamacare.
"Romney says repeal ... can't afford it. Overall effective attack," he said.
Patch editor Chris Helms reported that after Obama said "[Obamacare] doesn't have the government take over health care," a room-full of GOP watchers in Newton replied, "Yes, it does."
Fitzgibbons took issue with Romney's characterization of Obamacare being pushed through Congress without any bipartisan support, saying, "It's Obama's fault that no Republicans voted for HCR?"
Newton Democrats groaned "Oh please," in response to Romney talking about working across the aisle, according to Patch's Graham.
Democrat Etta Goodstein added, "Romney's characterization of this state's health care bill that passed under his watch? He is not mentioning the real reasons that it happened ... the free care pool was driving costs of delivery too high to be absorbed."
In another quick hit unscientific poll of panelists and readers in the live chat, Patch asked, "What do you think about Obamacare?" Twenty-seven percent voted "keep in place as-is;" 46 percent voted "keep most in place, but still needs work;" 23 percent voted "Repeal the whole thing and replace from scratch;" and 4 percent voted "Repeal and don't replace it with anything."
Asked to give letter grades to the candidates' closing arguments, Obama received mostly B's and a few C's, while Romney received similar grades.
Festa said, "Romney's closing was more disciplined, but not great either," while Buck added about Romney's closing argument, which he gave a B+, "Content strong, finally looking at camera, cohesive, but he just can't get inspirational."
At least one reader was convinced by the debate. Jonathan Craven wrote, "My vote has been swayed, I will now vote for Romney."