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Local party leaders: Obama loses debate

Friday, October 5, 2012


President Barack Obama’s performance in Wednesday night’s debate is drawing criticism from both parties.

“I think he (Obama) was on the defense, off balance. He might have been a little nervous. I think maybe (he was) a little bit cautious about the questions,” said Jeff Williams, chairman of the Martinsville Republican Committee.

Even some Democratic Party loyalists said Republican Gov. Mitt Romney emerged from the debate with an edge.

“I would probably give the edge to Romney, but there are three debates scheduled, and this was only the first,” said Jeff Adkins, chairman of the Martinsville-Henry County Democratic Committee. “This is always fluid” and can switch the other way easily.

Besides, “the challenger always wins the first one,” Adkins said. “That’s kind of how the trend is.”

Part of Obama’s lackluster performance may be attributed to Williams’ assessment that the president is not “comfortable with where things are.”

“I don’t think he’s comfortable selling Americans on where we are,” Williams said.

Williams said the president “sounded like he was on the defense. I’m not usually into body language, but Obama seemed to blink every 3 or 4 seconds (and appeared to be) wishing he was just about anywhere else in the world.”

“The novelty of an African-American president has worn off,” Williams said, and people are aware of the reality of our economy.

“I don’t think people got the change they expected” with Obama, Williams said. “Given Obama’s lack of experience, I pray for him every day, his health, judgment, his family, but it’s hard not to think we would have been better off with someone with more experience.”

Although Williams said he had been concerned that Romney would go into the debate “being too nice, I think he held his ground,” confronted the president “and did very well.”

Romney “did a better job explaining himself and countering Obama’s comments and statements” and also was confident, Williams said.

Romney “is confident in letting the American people take both sides and decide what’s best ... I do think Romney won the debate,” Williams said. “I’m not just saying that because I support Romney. I am well pleased.”

Adkins said he believes “President Obama made a big mistake ... by not coming out and being more aggressive. I think President Obama clearly had the lead going into the debate, and I think he went into it playing it safe. I think if he had won the debate, the election would be basically over.”

“(Romney) left a lot of openings for criticisms — openings that could be disputed,” Adkins said, pointing to Romney’s tax plan to give a 20 percent tax break to all people as an example. Adkins said that although Romney gave no details, he said his tax break will not affect the deficit.

But, that is due to the deductions — such as mortgage interest, dependents and others — that people no longer will be able to claim on their taxes, Adkins said. He said that he doesn’t think Obama hit Romney on that.

The president also “never mentioned the 47 percent of the people that Romney said he was not going to worry about,” Adkins said. “That’s political malpractice not to mention the points that are important to his campaign.”

As far as Romney’s pledge to bring back millions of jobs, Adkins said jobs are coming back to the U.S. and the economy is “going to take off next year, regardless of who wins” the Nov. 6 election.

“Jobs are being created, and I think more will be,” he said, and added the president did not mention in the debate the number of jobs created during his first term. But “I think the economy is going to take off next year because of the things that President Obama has done.”

While Adkins does not understand why the president was not more forceful Wednesday, he speculated that Obama was “trying to be presidential. (And, he) is just not a good debater. Fortunately, when you pick a president, you’re not picking a person who is a good debater. You’re picking a person to lead the country.”

Adkins, who also coaches basketball, used a sports analogy to make his point.

“When you get a lead and get the opportunity to bury your opponent, you should do it .... You don’t want to play it safe, and I think (Obama’s strategy Wednesday) was just trying to play it safe, trying not to lose,” Adkins said.

“But when you’ve got your opponent down, you’ve got to go all out” or it gives an opponent “a glimmer of hope,” Adkins said. On Wednesday night, Obama “gave the Republican Party a glimmer of hope where they had none, in my opinion.”

“Overall, the president should have been more forceful. For some reason, he refused to do that,” Adkins said. “(Obama has) to go after (Romney). If he doesn’t, he’s not going to win the election.”

W.C. Fowlkes, chairman of the Henry County Republican Committee, said he was pleased with the debate, that Romney seemed “a little sharper, more prepared” than Obama. Romney showed “he’s real, too,” Fowlkes added.

“I kind of got the impression that Obama may have been a little over-confident to start with, and Romney was very sharp,” Fowlkes said Thursday. “I think he (Obama) was caught off guard on a couple of things. ... The tone was set pretty early, and it flowed that way.”

Romney was “perceived as more competitive, respectful but challenging,” Fowlkes said.

The debate likely gave Romney more credibility, a boost with fundraising and a little shift in the polls, “for what that’s worth,” Fowlkes said.

But, he added, “I’m a little too much of a realist to think he (Romney) killed them dead. He did a good job, I give him the nod, but I wouldn’t think it was a knockout. There are still two more (debates) to go.”


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