In a country obsessed with marketing, and where body language and smart one liners matter, everyone’s focus is now on the last TV duel between US President Barrack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney tonight.
The second debate saw a combative comeback by Obama, but numbers show that it did not sway too many of the undecided voters.
The gap between Romney’s agenda and Obama’s is significant—so much so that voters have been bombarded by conflicting numbers and stands. Worryingly, neither candidate has managed to present a coherent picture of where he believes the US is headed.
Indeed, analysts and the media here have spotted that both candidates have veered sharply from their traditional positions. President Obama, for instance, now sounds as if he believes that only the government can set everything right. The owner of a New York-based media conglomerate who didn’t wish to be identified says Obama “sounds like a Union leader and that is a reflection of how far left he has gone.”
Meanwhile, Romney’s conservative agenda make Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan seem like liberal democrats.
That’s confusing, alright.
The debates themselves—which, as I have said before, haven’t helped the undecided decide—have been more about jobs than terror, deficit than drones. College students who form a significant proportion of voters are more worried about student loans and, consequently, jobs. While Obama wants to use taxpayer money to fix unemployment and build infrastructure, Romney wants to reduce corporate taxes and incentivize companies to create jobs. It’s difficult to rank these conflicting approaches.
Meanwhile, there’s little talk of Osama bin Laden—his killing was supposed to be a high point of the Obama presidency—and the way the two candidates have played out the debate on the happenings in Libya have made it the exclusive fodder for policy wonks.
Indeed, it seems to me, an outsider that both sides know private business has to thrive, if jobs are to be created. They also know this can only happen if they create an environment that rekindles the entrepreneurial instincts of America. After all, Google, Facebook and Apple created enough wealth and jobs without government intervention.
Then, this seems a moderate view (and the two candidates will then have to argue about their approaches, which are different and not the end, which is the same).
The inside-buzz in Washington is that President Obama needs to moderate his extreme views. He may have come to power on a platform of hope, goes the reasoning, but he doesn’t offer any now because of his obsession with his definition of a clean government. Even some democrats would like him to move a bit more to the political centre and are worried that he may have overpromised on social security programmes.
Personally, I’d also like to see a bit more ideology and fewer smart one-liners in the third debate. With the election just two weeks away, this is an opportunity for the two candidates to present and highlight their differing positions—on the economy, on foreign policy, on social welfare.
I am not sure that will happen. Then, if it doesn’t, how will we know who’s better?
’Shivnath Thukral works with Essar and is in the US as an Eisenhower Fellow’