National View: Obama Wins by Moving Further to the Right


The remarkable thing about the second debate, is a recognition of just how far to the right the Democrats have moved to counter the lurch to the right by the Republicans.

It is true that when asked how he would differ from President George W. Bush, Mitt Romney largely fumbled the ball by responding, “President Bush and I are different people, and these are different times. And that’s why my five-point plan is so different than what he would have done.”

President Obama then nailed the former Massachusetts Governor: “You know, there are some things where Governor Romney’s different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform. He didn’t call for self-deportation. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.”

“So there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy, and I think that’s a mistake.”

Mr. Obama’s statement here, that Governor Romney on social issues is more extreme than George Bush was, is another illustration of the continued rightward movement of the Republican Party, even by someone who was generally considered a moderate.

The problem is that to match that movement, the Democratic Party has moved well to the right, as well.

This debate was largely about the middle class, with a little bit of talk about tax breaks for the wealthy mixed in.  President Barack Obama never mentioned the poor.  He never even mentioned poverty.  While Mitt Romney was willing to attack President Obama with the one in six people living in poverty statistic, he too was not willing to address the broad social issues.

No one talked about foreclosure or credit scores, and when the college student asked the question about student loan debt, both candidates addressed jobs rather than student loan policies.

Reverend Jesse Jackson made the point on Wednesday that here you had a Vice Presidential Debate in Kentucky, where the poorest county in America is, and no questions about poverty.

“How can you have a debate in Kentucky and don’t mention poverty?” he asked in an interview with Politico.

“Not one moderator has raised the issue of poverty or the issue of low credit scores,” he said. “Fifty million people are in poverty. Another 50 million are ‘unbankable’ – they have a credit score so low they can’t borrow money from the bank…they go to the worst schools, have the fewest life options…yet from that group comes our soldiers. That’s where the 47 percent resides.”

There were similar complaints after the first debate.

“We were 75 minutes in before Gov. Romney became the first to mention poverty at all, and neither he nor President Obama mentioned child poverty,” said Ed Walz of First Focus as reported in a Washington Post op-ed. “There was some mention of the Child Tax Credit, but no acknowledgement at all of the fact that some of its best anti-poverty enhancements are going to vanish without real leadership.”

Mark Shriver, a senior vice president at Save the Children USA, told the Washington Post that he “would have liked to have heard a commitment to cutting child poverty rates in half over the next eight years.” He added, “I would have liked to have heard a strategy for providing every poor child with a high-quality early childhood education (birth to age 5).”

“Again, poor children remain politically invisible,” said Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician, president of Children’s Health Fund and professor at Columbia University. “In a debate focused on the economy, it would have been entirely appropriate to ask about plans to deal with poverty in general – and poverty among children in particular. For those who are legitimately worried about cutbacks in vital safety net programs for children during this economic downturn, this debate fell short.”

It was not just poverty that lost out.  In the debate over gas prices, the debate was over oil production.

Barack Obama responded, “We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.”

Now, give President Obama some credit – at least he was willing to talk about green energy: “I’ve also said we can’t just produce traditional sources of energy; we’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we’ve doubled clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels. And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years.”

Mitt Romney has made too much of the $1.84 gas price figure – it was a blip because the oil market literally collapsed in late 2008.  Barack Obama was right to point out the gas prices were over four dollars during most of George Bush’s second term.

The answer is not to bring oil production up, not to open land up to more drilling. The answer is to develop alternative green energy so that we can move away from our oil dependency, which leads to high gas prices and foreign entanglement, and contributes to global warming.

In fact, global warming or climate change may be the biggest crisis we face, and no one has talked about it during the debates.  Instead, the debate focused on licenses and permits on federal land.  And the fallacy of clean coal.

Then you have the assault weapons exchange.  This is about politics.  The Democrats were tough on guns for about a decade and then they learned something very interesting in 2000 – even though the majority of the people in this country favor tougher gun laws, the majority of the people who care enough about the issue to actually cast their vote based on it, favor less regulation of the gun industry.

All of the swing states support fewer regulations on guns.

So when asked about what his “administration has done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?” his answer was “nothing.”

Oh, it was not literally nothing, but his administration has not signed any new federal gun control legislation in the first four years and his answer was something out of the NRA handbook.

“We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves,” the President said.

As one observer noted: “It’s an indisputable statement about the deep-seated American attachment to firearms. It does not say anything about AK-47s in the hands of criminals. What it does reveal is Obama’s determination to steer clear of the gun issue at all costs.”

Now President Obama probably wins this exchange on points – but not do to any particular courage of his own.

Mitt Romney said, “I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on, on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal.”

The moderator pressed him on his past support for an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts and asked “What is it that you have changed your mind?”

His answer was  basically that in his state they had bipartisan support – but he never explained his change of thinking.

President Obama had the better answer, responding: “I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was in part because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.”

Mitt Romney had the weirder answer, offering two-parent households as the solution.  Somewhere out there, Murphy Brown was not happy on Tuesday night.

A few months ago, we noted how far to the right the Republican party has moved, but on Tuesday we saw how far the Democrats have gone in ceding ground.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. rusty49

    Romney’s plan seems to be doing very well:

    “Mitt Romney has taken a six-point lead over President Obama in the latest Gallup national tracking poll — his biggest lead to date and the first time he has led outside the margin of error.

    The latest seven-day tracking poll of likely voters shows Romney at 51 percent and Obama at 45 percent, up from 50-46 on Tuesday and 49-47 on Monday.

    Romney has steadily gained in the Gallup poll in recent weeks, turning what had been a growing deficit in September into a growing lead since his strong first debate performance. And when Gallup shifted its voter model from registered voters to likely voters last week, Romney’s numbers improved even more (among registered voters, the race is at Romney 48, Obama 46).”

  2. David M. Greenwald

    The article never mentions polling at all and the Gallup Poll was taken primarily before the last debate. This was an article that criticized Obama’s move ot the right in order to regain his footing in the last debate and ignored critical issues facing this country. Your post has nothing to do with the bulk of the article.

  3. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > Barack Obama was right to point out the gas prices
    > were over four dollars during most of George Bush’s
    > second term.

    Do you own a car and buy gas?

    In the summer of 2008 gas briefly spiked over $4/gallon (out of the 48 months of Bush’s second term gas was over $4 for less than a month here in Davis). Unless you define “2% of the term” as “most of the term” you are wrong…

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “Do you own a car and buy gas?”

    I do. I would prefer to own a car that does not use gasoline. I would also prefer to utilize better and more convenient mass transportation systems.

  5. wesley506

    The debate was largely about the middle class and the economy because the middle class are the voters who are getting squeezed more and more to pay for programs that do not directly benefit them, and tax breaks that they will never be able to use. The quickest way for Obama to ensure defeat would have been for him to advocate for yet another costly social welfare program.

    I do not know how you can say that the poor were never addressed. I think it is pretty safe to say that the vast majority of the poor would like to have a decent paying job rather than another hand-out. This debate addressed the economy and that is front and center for everyone, especially the poor.

    Early childhood education does not need to be addressed because it is little more than govt. paid daycare. Any benefits from pre-school disappear by about the 3 grade. Advocating for expansion of a govt. program with questionable benefits (paid for by raising taxes?) would not get him any votes.

    Obama did address the gun problem in this country. As he correctly stated the problem in Chicago as is the case in the rest of the country is cheap handguns and even more important our attitude toward violence in this country. Assault rifles are actually responsible for very few homicides. Unfortunately as was the case in Colorado, when they are used they tend to be very effective at maximum damage in minimum time. With about 90 guns/100 citizens in this country, eliminating even a fraction of them would be impossible. Every time gun control is mentioned, the 30-40% of the households that have guns get visions of the FBI raiding their home to take away their shotgun/rifle used for duck or dear hunting, or their handgun kept for personal protection. Telling these people that he plans more govt. intrusion into their personal lives would not get Obama any votes.

    If Obama does not win the election, whatever plans he may have for the poor, guns, the environment, etc.. will go nowhere. Does anyone still really believe that we can have expanded govt programs and lower taxes.

    The one economic issue that I feel should have been discussed is healthcare. Catastrophic medical bills are still the number one reason for people loosing their homes. With the average family now paying $16,000/year for employer sponsored healthcare, and worker-only coverage topping $6,000/year this is an issue that I feel needed to be at the forefront.

  6. SouthofDavis

    I asked David if he owns a car and buys gas (since just about everyone I know will remember when they first paid over $4/gallon for gas) and pointed out that he was wrong about the price of gas since it was not over $4/gallon “during most of George Bush’s second term” (Mr Obvious sent a link that will show this).

    What I was looking for is a correction to his mistake. I’m not trying to defend Bush (I probably hate him more than David) I’m just pointing out a mistake that can easily be fixed.

    Like David I would like to have a car that does not use gasoline and better public transportation, but with the Tesla Model S with the big battery selling for about 20x what my car is worth (and more than I have paid for every gallon of gasoline I’ve bought over the past 40 years) and my last train trip to Truckee taking over 5 hours it does not look like I’ll be getting rid of a car that uses gas or taking public transit on a regular basis any time soon…

  7. SouthofDavis

    wesley506 wrote:

    > The one economic issue that I feel should have
    > been discussed is healthcare. Catastrophic medical
    > bills are still the number one reason for people
    > losing their homes.

    I agree that they should have talked more about healthcare, but as far as I know (as someone who spent the middle part of the 90’s buying REO property and non performing loans) catastrophic medical bills are the number one reason people “declare bankruptcy”, but not related to why people are “losing homes” (for the most part healthcare providers can’t touch the equity in your home and from what I understand most foreclosures today are related to job loss/income reduction or people that are upside down deciding to just stop making payments and let the lender take the home)…

  8. rusty49

    SOD, don’t look for that to change anytime soon either. A123Systems, another company that received Obama stmulus handouts to the tune of $249 million just went bellyup. By the way, their company executives contributed heavily to Democrats.

    “DETROIT – After years of struggling in the nascent market for electric cars, battery maker A123 Systems Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday.

    The filing drew criticism from Republicans who claim the Obama administration has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on alternative energy companies like A123.

    The company received a $249 million Department of Energy grant three years ago with high hopes that it would help foster a U.S. battery industry. At the time, the country was far behind the world leaders, Korea and China.

    But the technology offered by the Waltham, Mass.-based A123 Systems turned out to be ahead of its time. Americans continue to shun costly electric cars in favor of gas-powered ones.”

  9. wesley506

    “….catastrophic medical bills are the number one reason people “declare bankruptcy”, but not related to why people are “losing homes” (for the most part healthcare providers can’t touch the equity in your home and from what I understand most foreclosures today are related to job loss/income reduction or people that are upside down decision to just stop making payments and let the lender take the home)…”

    I think you might be right in that the last couple of years strategic bankruptcies or just walking away from an upside down home may be the reason the majority of homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure. I also believe these last couple of years are the anomaly.

    C. Robertson in [b]Get Sick, Get Out: The medical Causes of Home Foreclosures[/b] (2008) found that the standard account of the home foreclosure spike attributed to loose lending practices, irresponsible borrowers, flat market, etc.. failed to represent the facts. They found that half of all foreclosures had medical causes. Half of the respondents in their study indicated that their foreclosure was caused in part by a medical problem. An American Journal of Medicine article in 2009 found that over 60% of all US bankruptcies in 2007 were attributable to medical problems and that most victims are middle class, well educated and have health insurance. They also found that the odds that a bankruptcy had a medical cause were 2.38 fold higher in 2007 than in 2001 and that out of pocket expenses medical costs averaged $26,971 for uninsured patients, $17,749 for those with private insurance, $14,633 with Medicaid, and $12, 021 with Medicare.
    Almost all health insurance is linked to employment. Interestingly in this AJM study they also found that a quarter of all firms surveyed cancel coverage immediately when an employee suffers a disabling illness and another quarter do so within a year. This seems to indicate that with a catastrophic medical event, the odds are pretty good that most people are screwed any way they look at it. Ifthey have insurance, their insurance gets cancelled, and now they have a pre-existing condition that will not be covered by anyone, even if they could afford the premiums.

  10. Lydia L.

    I supported Hillary in 2008, then John Edwards because of his anti poverty platform, then Obama. This time I will vote for my president but I really like Dennis Kucinich. In a debate years ago, he was asked what was more important to him – national security, or humanity. Dennis was the only one who chose humanity. I like our president, I trust him. But Kucinich’s views line up more with my own. As a woman, I know my civil rights will be better protected by our presient. But there are many issues with civil rights that both candidates need to improve on. Thanks for another thought provoking article.

  11. Lydia L.

    Re: gas prices. there are other ways to deal with gas prices. I know people who refuse to give up their extra premium cable channels,their fancy cell phones & their “mani’s and pedi’s” but complain about gas prices like they are flat broke. If everyone grew a tiny garden, we might not be so reliant on big trucks hauling our vegetables here from Mexico. And your food would taste better. Even if one only owns a tiny patio, tomoatos and basil can flourish. There are many ways to reduce your dependence on gasoline. Then we don’t have to stress as much about gas prices.

  12. Frankly

    [i]”I do not know how you can say that the poor were never addressed. I think it is pretty safe to say that the vast majority of the poor would like to have a decent paying job rather than another hand-out. This debate addressed the economy and that is front and center for everyone, especially the poor. [/i]

    Well said wesley506!

    Lydia L., although I don’t agree with any of your political choices, I appreciate the ideas you list. I don’t have any problem with them. I think our difference would be that you don’t have a problerm with government social engineering and central control to make it happen. I think that would be destructive.

    I think some Davisites are frankly a bit head-in-the-clouds on the economy and energy. It is like they think only half way and stop when they get the warm and fuzzy result they seek. All of the things you list have economic consequences. They need to be a factor.

    Your way to deal with gas prices would result in less economic activity; less economic growth; fewer jobs; more people requiring public assistance. It would, in fact, hurt the very people who need the most help the most.

    What you advocate is not a solution to high gas problems; it is a lifestyle model that you value. I would respect your choice to live that life just as I would respect the choice of someone paying for cable, fancy cell phones and trips to the beautician. However, there does need to be a healthy population of people living the latter lifestyle to support those that live like you advocate. The economy is built on trade. There are employees working for the cable company, the cell phone company and the beautician. If you purchase less of their products and services, more of those employees will lose their jobs. Also, with higher energy costs the products and services they deliver will inflate and business will decline… thus also leading to fewer jobs.

    It is silly to talk about reduced consumerism and patio tomatoes until enough Americans have jobs. High gas prices have a direct impact on jobs.

  13. Frankly

    I think it has been pretty common that candidates move toward their ideological base during the primaries and then move more to center for the general election. Obama was somewhat an exception; riding a wave of Bush hatred, he doubled-down on anti conservative rhetoric and positions. So did the liberal wing of the Dem Party (Reid, Pelosi, etc). The media didn’t really challenge it and was complicit in it. For example, when Representative Gifford was shot, the media jumped on a report that the shooter was a Tea Party-enflamed murderer (he had no connection… was just insane).

    Now Obama is moving more to the center because his election is in trouble. The Bush hatred and anti-conservative rhetoric has not only grown stale, it is now being looked at as disengenuous because of the failures of his first term. The empty chair metaphor is looking more and more accurate… all smiles, charisma and talk… with none of the results promised.

    The Teflon Messiah and his handlers are doing what they do best… get Obama elected. If his supporters suddenly morphed back to Kennedy Democrats, Obama would probably say, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” and promise to keep the military strong.

  14. rusty49

    “I know people who refuse to give up their extra premium cable channels,their fancy cell phones & their “mani’s and pedi’s”…”

    The same could be said about many who are currently taking government handouts, for example those on welfare and food stamps.

  15. Frankly

    Good point Rusty.

    At least the purchase of cable, cell phones and fancy fingernails generates jobs and tax revenue.

    I suppose that one can make a case that government handouts require government jobs; however, those are funded by the former… as are the actual handouts.

    I am thinking of the marketing slogan: “get a manicure and save a poor person!”

  16. rusty49

    Exactly Jeff. The point I was trying to make is that many on gov’t handouts also “refuse to give up their extra premium cable channels,their fancy cell phones & their “mani’s and pedi’s” but would Lydia expect them to give those things up to possibly get off the gov’t dole or maybe take a little less in entitlements? I mean if we’re expected to give up some of the goodies to help pay for gas then don’t you think that’s only fair that they do too.

  17. wdf1

    Salt Lake City Tribune, 10/19/12: Tribune Endorsement: Too Many Mitts: Obama has earned another term ([url][/url])

  18. rusty49

    According to Gallup polls Romney is up another point today to put Romney at 52% and Obama at 45%, he just keeps surging:

    “Mitt Romney continues his rise, according to a Gallup poll released today that suggests he has a seven-point national lead over President Obama.

    The tracking poll, which surveyed likely voters, put Romney ahead 52-45, Gallup said.”

  19. rusty49

    The hits just keep on coming:

    “Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has finally cleared what many aides have long seen as his biggest hurdle: A majority of voters now like him.

    According to multiple polls, Romney’s favorability rating has surged since the Republican National Convention and in most he equals or bests President Obama’s favorables.

    And late Thursday, the Pew Research Center, the poll that has been toughest on Romney’s favorability, released results showing that Romney is ahead of Obama by a point, 50 percent to 49 percent. That is a stunning turnaround from March, when Obama’s favorable rating in Pew was about twice Romney’s, 55 percent to 29 percent.”

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