Candidates turn up the heat
The second presidential debate got off to a much hotter start than the first one did, as sparks flew between the two candidates over such issues as renewable sources of energy, equal pay for women and tax cuts to the wealthy.
President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney took part in a town hall-style debate Tuesday night. Immediately, Obama was on the offensive, as the first question, asked by a college student named Jeremy Epstein, asked both candidates what they will do to make sure less students are in debt as they graduate from college.
“There are a bunch of things we can do to make sure your future is bright,” Obama said. “In addition to extending Pell Grants to college students, we also need to make sure there are jobs for you once you get out of college. To do this, we need to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. When Governor Romney wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt, I said to have faith in America.”
As he did in the first debate, Romney touted Massachusetts’s education plan while he was governor, in which students that graduated in the top fourth of their high school class could attend any four-year state institution for free.
CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley ran a tighter debate than Jim Lehrer did during the first debate, and kept the candidates on track, outside of the heated discussion the two candidates got into over their energy policies.
Obama was the first to answer the question, saying that the Obama administration has pushed oil production in the U.S. to the highest levels in 16 years, and natural gas production to the highest level in decades.
“We can’t just produce traditional sources of energy though, we have to look toward the future,” he said. “When you go to buy a car in the coming years, you should be able to go twice as far on a gallon of gas as you can now. We’ve also lowered our oil imports to the lowest level in 16 years and we have 600,000 potential jobs and years of energy right under our feet with natural gas.”
Romney rebutted Obama’s statement with the claim that oil and natural gas is down on federal land.
“When I was governor, I was in coal country, and people would grab my arm in coal plants and ask me to save their jobs,” Romney said. “We need to take advantage of the energy resources we have, and we can make American energy-independent in eight years.”
Almost directly after Romney’s response, the two candidates stood up and met center stage, talking over each other about who has the better energy policy.
“Governor Romney stood in front of a coal plant and said ‘This plan kills,’” Obama said. “We need to produce coal cleaner and smarter.”
Freshman Lily Rood said she believed that Obama had better rhetoric than Romney did throughout the debate.
“Obama’s arguments were very structured,” she said.
For the first time in any debate this election season, the topic of equal pay for women was brought up, which led to another highly contested discussion between the two candidates.
Obama brought up the fact that he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which took out a 180-day statue of limitation in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to file an equal-pay lawsuit.
“In every walk of life, my administration does not tolerate discrimination,” he said. “When asked about Lilly Ledbetter, he [Romney] said ‘I’ll get back to you.’”
Obama also cited his health care plan that requires employers to provide their employees with health care coverage for contraceptives.
Rather than address Lilly Ledbetter, Romney used his cabinet as governor as an example of why he supports equal rights for women.
“I had the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men,” he said. “So we went to women’s groups and asked them to find us people for the cabinet, and we staffed my cabinet and my senior staff, and my cabinet had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state.”
Towson freshman Rebecca Smith said all of Obama’s arguments were persuasive.
“It seems like Obama is always catching Romney flip-flopping,” she said.
Similar to the first debate, Romney and Obama highlighted the differences in their tax plans.
Romney said the main goal of his administration would be to bring tax rates down for everyone, and simplify tax codes.
“Health insurance premiums are up, food prices are up, utility prices are up,” he said. “Middle income families have been crushed. Middle income people are going to get a tax break, and there won’t be a tax on savings.”
While Obama agreed with Romney that the middle class should have to pay less in taxes, he attacked Romney for cutting taxes to the wealthy.
“If we’re serious about reducing the deficit, then in addition to touch spending cuts, we have to make sure the wealthy do a little bit more,” Obama said. “For the first $250,000 you make, there’ll be no change. But above $250,000, we’ll go back to the tax rates when Bill Clinton was President. That’s what took us from deficit to surplus.”