Did Romney Really Win the Debate?

By Guest Contributor

At the conclusion of last Wednesday night’s presidential debate, the media consensus was clear — Governor Romney had won the debate. President Obama underperformed. The race for president was going down to the wire.

Yet, beneath both the outpouring of elation among Republicans and the head-banging of Democrats, did Romney REALLY win the debate?

Sure, Romney was stylistically confident, prepared and aggressive. But a closer look at what he said, as opposed to how he said it, reveals that Romney did what he has been doing all along: providing few substantive details of what he would do as president and not being completely truthful with the facts.

For example, Romney emphatically rebutted Obama’s claim that the Republican nominee would enact a five trillion dollar tax cut. Yet, he did not tell us exactly what his tax plan would entail. His generalizations about giving deficit-neutral tax cuts ignored the fact that an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which Romney supports, would cost over one trillion in the next decade.

On deficit reduction, Romney’s quip about cutting Big Bird and the subsidy to PBS ignited a firestorm of jokes and memes on social media. But at the end of the day, these cuts would erase less than 0.01 percent of the entire federal budget. Beyond repealing Obamacare, which would actually add to the deficit, Romney offered no specific details.

Romney also criticized President Obama for doubling the deficit in his first term. Yet this fiscal year, the projected deficit of $1.2 trillion is actually slightly smaller than the $1.4 trillion deficit posted in 2009. Romney also claimed that U.S. government spending is now as high as that of Spain. But a look at the facts show that current U.S. government spending is approximately 35 percent of GDP, less than the 42 percent Romney cited and only a few points higher than it was during Reagan’s presidency.

Romney’s troubles with arithmetic extended into the discussion on energy. He claimed that half of the green businesses Obama has invested in have gone out of business when truthfully only three of 36 have.

When pushed on his plans for Medicare, Romney criticized the president on cutting $716 billion but promptly proceeded to advocate more private choice, giving even less security to seniors who depend on the program.

As the debate discussion wound its way to health care, education and Wall Street reform, Romney continued to offer vague and fuzzy generalizations instead of a real substantive vision. What would he replace Obamacare with? He wouldn’t say. What would he replace Dodd-Frank with? He wouldn’t say. How would he help students like us afford college? He wouldn’t say.

After the debate, pundits and laymen alike observed that Obama was underprepared, fatigued or apathetic. Yet, we College Democrats believe that he told Americans what they needed to hear, not what was politically convenient. Yes, Governor Romney’s performance made the debate an exciting one to watch, but did he really offer any truthful substance to the American people? We think not.