By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS — Most pundits gave the edge in Wednesday night’s presidential debate to Republican Mitt Romney, but a University of Missouri communications professor said that comes as no surprise.
“In some ways last night we saw a typical incumbent-challenger debate,” said Mitchell McKinney, a MU debate expert.
Most recent polls have shown Romney falling behind President Barack Obama, particularly in the key swing states. McKinney said the GOP challenger appeared aggressive and urgent against the Democratic incumbent.
“What magnified the contrast was Obama’s professorial approach,” McKinney told Missouri Watchdog. “Romney looked more focused. To viewers it seemed like he was coming out of the gate and taking it to the president.”
Therein lies a certain advantage for the challenger. McKinney noted an incumbent has to run on his record, and a challenger can attack the areas in which a president has failed, such as Obama’s inability to reduce the national deficit.
“Romney was making the attacks, and Obama was having to defend,” he said.
It was one of the issues that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama agreed on during the debate that caught the attention of Show-Me Institute policy analyst David Stokes: that small business could use a hand, including reducing corporate tax rates.
Stokes notes the United States has some of the highest corporate tax rates among industrialized nations, about 35 percent. This puts a heavy burden on businesses, most of which are smaller “S” corporations.
Both candidates expressed an interest in reducing the tax rate.
“I hope that happens no matter who wins,” Stokes told Watchdog.
Romney brought up expanding trade, especially in Latin America, as a key component in his plan to improve the American economy.
Stokes said Obama has shown willingness in that realm, “but going even further, expanding North America Free Trade Agreement zones has huge possibilities for the United States.”
In his closing statement, Romney broached the issue of putting more power in the hands of the states.
Although the Show-Me Institute is nonpartisan, it believes in free markets and personal liberty rather than using big government to solve problems. This is done better at the state level, Stokes said.
“I think Missouri and other states should be their own instruments of democracy,” he said.
Show-Me Institute policy analyst Patrick Ishmael doesn’t take sides in the presidential debate, but said Romney’s comments on the Affordable Care Act were accurate.
“It’s important to understand the Affordable Care Act doesn’t make health care more affordable, or really more accessible,” he said.
Romney kept referring to the $716 billion he said Medicare would be trimmed under Obamacare — which both candidates agreed to call it. Ishmael said that was “indisputable.”
He said those cost cuts to make Obamacare sustainable will only work if the costs are kept down. Since the plan is just being rolled out it remains to be seen if that will prove true.
Ishmael said he’s not a fan of the health-care advisory board (morbidly called “death panels” by many Republicans prior to the act’s passage), which will decide what will or will not be covered and was a hot topic during the health care portion of the debate.
“I think a better way to provide care is to let the free market provide it,” he told Watchdog.
While Ishmael wouldn’t declare a winner in the health-care aspects of the debate, he said Romney, who touted a plan similar to Obama’s while he was the Massachusetts governor, “articulated his points clearly.”
Ishmael said health-care costs are going up, and it’s going to continue to be a growing issue in this country.
“No matter your view of the debate or the candidates you have to understand the federal government doesn’t have an unlimited
amount of money,” he said.
McKinney said Romney’s solid debate performance isn’t likely to result in much carry over into the key state and federal races in Missouri, including the key U.S. Senate battle between Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill and Republican challenger Todd Akin.
Romney was among the top GOP brass calling for Akin to quit that race after his controversial comments in August about rape and pregnancy.
“I don’t think Akin’s folks are going to look over and became a fan because (Romney) continues to distance himself,” McKinney said.
If the first debate set a pattern that continues then we “might see a horserace,” McKinney said. But he noted that Walter Mondale took it to the “Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan, during their first debate in 1984.
“Many people came out of that first debate asking about Reagan’s age, but we didn’t end up with President Mondale,” he said.