9 Best Blows Landed by Obama in Presidential Debate
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9. Enter the 47 percent. Obama, having lost the pre-debate coin toss to answer the opening question first, was given the final word in the debate -- and was apparently determined to save to the very end the number his supporters were longing to hear pass his lips. During the first debate, Obama frustrated many liberals by not mentioning Romney’s now infamous remarks, secretly recorded at a fundraising event in Boca Raton, that 47 percent of Americans “see themselves as victims” who feel entitled to food, shelter and health care at government expense. Romney’s characterization was based on the percentage of Americans who pay no ordinary federal income tax because their income either does not meet the threshold, or they are active military or retired Americans living primarily on Social Security benefits. (Low-income workers still pay federal payroll taxes.)
Saving the reference for his last moment to speak was a strategically smart move for Obama, as it deprived Romney the chance to walk back those remarks or apologize for them before a television audience encompassing tens of millions, which is likely why Obama never mentioned the 47 percenters during the first debate. (In the first debate, Romney had apparently planned a response to such a volley, and when deprived of the opportunity to address the controversy, appeared the next night on Fox News Channel’s Hannity to deliver his mea culpa to an audience of fewer than 2 million.)
Earlier in the debate, Obama noted that Romney, in an interview on 60 Minutes, stated he thought it fair that he, despite his many millions, paid only 14 percent in federal taxes, paid a much lower rate than, as Obama put it, “a nurse or a bus driver -- somebody making $50,000 a year.”
In the closing moments, Obama doubled down, prefacing his takedown with faint praise for the former Massachusetts governor and leveraged buyout mogul. From the transcript:
I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.
Folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives. Veterans who've sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country's dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don't make enough income.
And I want to fight for them. That's what I've been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.
When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn't a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities.
With that, Obama asked viewers for their votes, and went on to mingle with fans, while the pundits hashed out who won and who lost the debate. Not another word, it was reported, passed between Romney and Obama, after the debate ended, even as they all but brushed against each other in the crush of well-wishers and family members.
For more on the Romney response to the Libya attack read here what Romney running mate Paul Ryan and Romney ally Bill Bennett were saying as President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received, at Dover Air Force Base, the bodies of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and his slain collegues.