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Now that the second presidential debate is over, Democrats and Republicans can really start arguing.
A much more spirited effort from President Obama led him to a victory over Mitt Romeny in the immediate snap polls that followed the town hall-style forum held in Long Island, and even most Fox News analysts at least called it a tie. But the media narrative is quite flexible, succeptible to protest, screaming and cicular logic. That’s where campaign advisers and surrogates come in, and Wednesday has seen no shortage of activity in that department.
A sampling of the post-debate chatter:
1. Romney in a bind
Aside from launching the latest one-note Twitter meme, Mitt Romney’s assertion that, as governor of Massachusetts he requested “binders full of women” fit to hire for government office, is earning him a little bit of heat.
As The Boston Phoenix points out, before the 2001 election that put Romney in the statehouse, a bipartisan coalition of women’s groups formed MassGAP, which aimed to fix the discrepancy between the number of men and women working for the state. Upon Romney’s election, they presented him with the so-called binders — though they would have done the same had a Democrat been elected.
Further, while Romney did appoint 14 women to senior-level positions at the outset of his administration, they were largely assigned to agencies Romney found unimportant. And, ultimately, the percentage of women in his administration slipped to below where it was when he first took office, at 26 percent.
2. Candy Crowley clarifies her role in the debate over Libya:
One of the biggest criticisms Republicans have for the president is his administration’s handling of the attacks on the US Embassy in Libya that took four American lives. At first thought to be caused by the amateurish Innocence of Muslims film made by a man in California, some evidence suggests that it was an act of an al Qaeda-linked group (though a New York Times article yesterday suggested that the video was indeed largely the cause).
Republicans charge that the Obama administration continued to deny that the event was an act of terror, something Romney charged during the debate. Obama interjected, saying that he indeed used the term “act of terror” in an address from the Rose Garden soon after the attack, and when Romney disputed it, Crowley backed the president’s assertion.
Later, on her home network of CNN, Crowley tried to explain her fine-tooth clarification.
“What I was trying to do … I was trying to move this along. The question was Benghazi. There is no question that the administration is quite vulnerable on this topic — that they did take weeks to go, ‘Well, actually, there really wasn’t a protest and actually didn’t have anything to do with the tape. That took a long time. That’s where he was going. That was his first answer… I wanted to move this along — could we get back to this? So I said, “He did say acts of terror, called it an act of terror. But Governor Romney, you are perfectly right that it took weeks for them to get past the tape.”
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was not convinced, saying on that network that Crowley “threw Obama a lifeline.”
3. Smiling is in the eye of the beholder
In the first debate, Obama was criticized for grimacing throughout, looking sullen as he quickly slid behind. In the VP debate, Joe Biden was said to be smiling and laughing too much. Now, according to Politico, Obama once again didn’t smile enough.
4. What’s Next?
Now, the candidates go off campaigning for five days, spinning the debate in their favor as much as possible. Obama is in Iowa and Ohio, while Romney is in Virginia. Michelle Obama will appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live! next week; Ann Romney will appear on The View tomorrow.
5. Foreign Policy
The third and final debate will be about foreign policy, which is where the two candidates probably have the most similar outlooks. Obama will tout ending the War in Iraq (though some will quibble with that boast) and say he’s bringing troops home from Afghanistan. Romney will argue that the US must be open to extending its stay in Afghanistan, and will work hard to clarify his Benghazi bungle from Tuesday night.
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