Tonight is the first of three presidential debates between President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. This debate centers on domestic policy, and as such puts the Republican challenger Mitt Romney at a serious disadvantage. Here’s what we’re expecting from the debates tonight, and some suggested talking points to drink to (responsibly) at home.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Basically: The economy is going to be center stage at tonight’s debates. And even though the president has a double digit lead over Romney when it comes to issues like taxes and the state of the economy, the former governor is far more comfortable on that subject than on issues like reproductive rights or immigration. Besides job creation and his business prowess, the only other thing that Romney is comfortable with in domestic policy is education. And, given that the president can hit back with Romney VP candidate Paul Ryan’s vote to double student loan interest rates and Romney’s own controversial stance on Pell Grants, it’s not a topic that Romney is likely to devote a lot of time to.
Advantage: This one is actually going to be a draw. Obama can point to the net jobs gain during his time in the White House, Romney can point to the national unemployment rate that still hovers above eight percent. Don’t expect anything new from either candidate – we certainly won’t be privy to any more Romney/Ryan economics details, and the numbers the president is likely to put forth have been heard many times before. The fact that Obama will be willing to put out numbers and Romney isn’t may fluster the candidate, potentially giving the president a slight advantage. But like most things in politics, those who are on board with each candidate will count this dominating segment of the debate as a victory for their side.
Bingo! (Take a drink!) ”You didn’t build that,” “Republicans voted against the jobs bill,” “job creators,” and “small business” are all catch phrases you’ll hear tonight. Take a drink for each one, and use the buddy system to avoid alcohol poisoning.
Health Care Reform
Basically: This is going to be an awkward topic for Romney, who has both distanced himself from and defended his universal health care initiative in Massachusetts. While most Americans approve of the individual policies of the Affordable Care Act – making it unwise to completely pan the entire program – the Republican Party has vowed time and time again to repeal the program in its entirety. Romney agreed to this, then said that he “of course” wouldn’t repeal all of it upon taking office, and then Paul Ryan claimed that contraceptive coverage would be “gone on day one.” It’s unclear which position Romney will be taking tonight, but President Obama will be lobbying hard for all the good in the ACA.
Advantage: When it comes to health care reform, it’s advantage Obama by a landslide. The president will be able to point out that he ran on the promise of reforming health care, he did it, and people are better off for it, while simultaneously pointing out the times that Romney has flip-flopped on the issues. There simply isn’t a way that Romney can claim that health care reform is a bad thing without calling to mind the sneering Romney that claimed half of the country is a moocher class that thinks they’re “entitled to health care, food, and housing.” Obama knows this, and he’s going to exploit this weakness.
Bingo! (Take a Drink!) “Personal responsibility,” “every American should have access to affordable health care” and Romney stammering about why his plan in Massachusetts was totally difference are all drink-worthy.
Basically: President Obama recently passed the DREAM Act by executive order in order to grant undocumented immigrants who came here as children and complete college or enlist in the military permanent residence in the country. Mitt Romney was against it, then for it, then went on Univision and referred to these high-achieving young Hispanic men and women as “illegal aliens.” Obama is likely to tout this accomplishment often during the debates, and will probably jab Romney’s “self-deportation” plan – or lack thereof. In fact, it would be hard for the president not to take a swipe at Romney’s laissez-faire “solution” to the problem, since Romney has yet to propose anything different and will probably rehash it again tonight.
Advantage: President Obama. Not only was the DREAM Act a huge accomplishment for the administration, the president leads Romney among Latino voters by at least thirty points. Romney may take a swing at some classic GOP greatest hits like a giant fence or more boots on the ground at the border, but the candidate’s positions on this issue are embarrassingly shallow.
Bingo! (Take a Drink!) Drink twice for any racist mention of people as “illegals,” drink for “self-deportation,” and drink each time either candidate says “a clear path to citizenship.” Or, since they’re both going to say it, split the difference between a friend, and just drink for one candidate while they drink for the other.
Various and Sundry Nonsense
Personality: As we at Lawsonry have mentioned before, the debates are vetted and carefully coordinated by the two political parties and the mainstream media. The candidates are now even informed as to the nature of the debates beforehand. So this will be the most manufactured, carefully prepared presidential debate we’ve ever seen, the only real insight we’ll get is to which president we like better – and that’s probably going to be Obama. Seriously though, Romney has been “practicing zingers” on his interns for months. Not only has he probably made some bewildered, unpaid college students cry, he clearly has no idea what a “zinger” is.
Finish your drink when Mitt Romney lets loose with one of those pre-made zingers – seriously, you’re gonna need it.
Truthiness: There’s been a lot of drama between the two campaigns leading up to the debates. The Romney campaign has said that they’ll be watching like hawks and expecting the president to spew nothing but lies all night, and the Obama campaign has said that that’s a laugh since the Romney campaign self-admittedly doesn’t want to be dictated by fact checkers. (All that was paraphrased, of course.)
The only thing we know for sure is that there will be lies, distortions, and half-truths galore. And because of that, the fact checkers will be sadly sober tonight. Drink for them every time you hear something that you’re pretty sure is not true. To make it a community activity, call shenanigans and make everyone with you drink.
Voter Fraud: This hot topic might not get a mention tonight, but it’s going to be uncomfortable for Romney if it does. With voter ID laws being questioned in nearly all of the states in which they were implemented, Republicans are losing ground on this issue. And even beyond the motive of voter suppression of these laws, Republicans have now been busted twice for major election fraud. The topic would do little to effect the Obama campaign, and would only give non-supporters a more negative view of the Romney campaign.
The Thrilling Conclusion? Nah.
As many political scientists have pointed out, presidential debates rarely have a clear winner and loser, and as such don’t really make for the kind of “game change” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently promised. What debates can do, however, is change the tone of the campaign. That’s what both sides will be trying their hardest to do tonight.
With the exception of any major gaffes or damning soundbites – which are always a possibility – tonight’s debate will leave tomorrow’s poll numbers relatively unchanged. But the narrative of the entire campaign has the potential to take a new direction tonight. It may seem depressing that the greatest impact of the presidential candidates’ only interactions with the American people is to change the way the story of their campaign is told, but so it goes.
Take a drink.
Please drink responsibly, and join Lawsonry for live coverage of tonight’s presidential debate!