Americans watched the lead change in the Republican Primary race following their debates, and there is no reason to think that the same thing will not happen when President Obama and Mitt Romney take the stage.
Texas Governor Rick Perry was considered a shoe-in to win the GOP nomination early on. But after fumbling his responses to debate questions, his lead faded fast and his poor debate performances inevitably led to his surrender. Temporary frontrunners, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, all benefited from good debate performances. But they all also suffered from infamous and controversial slips of the tongue, so their debate performances were also a large part of their downfall.
While one debate misstatement can mean the difference between winning and losing an election, a better than expected performance can also take a lagging candidate and turn them into a leader. Mitt Romney generally performed in neutral during the Republican debates. For the most part, Romney did not say anything that drastically helped or hurt his image among voters. That has not been the case since, with gaffs on making his dog ride on the roof of his car, to making comments to a crowd of college students including, “ask your parents for money,” if government funding for education loans are cut back.
Barack Obama may have won his presidential election in 2008, in large part, due to his debate performances with rival Republican John McCain. Obama conveyed a sense of competence and hope to voters that simply outshined what McCain had to offer. In 2012, Obama and Romney will face off in three pre-election debates. The first will be on October 3rd at the University of Denver in Colorado. The second will air on October 11th at Centre College in the heart of GOP country in Danville, Kentucky.
The final, and perhaps most important presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, will be held at Hofstra University in New York on October 16th. New York is a ‘blue’ state with a hefty 29 electoral votes, which President Obama is expected to capture with ease. There has been an enormous amount of criticism surrounding the Citizens United decision and the money it has allowed to flood into Super Pac’s in 2012. It worries people on both sides of the aisle.
“The intensifying flood of uncapped donations to outside political groups is transforming not just campaigns but the entire business of politics,” according to the New York Times. Grover Norquist, the ultra-conservative founder of Americans for Tax Reform Super Pac has had hundreds of lawmakers sign his Pledge to never allow the federal government to increase revenue through taxes. And he believes that Republicans are the perfect tool for him to not only reshape government, but change the very fabric of majority rule democracy.
Grover Norquist said, “The reason why the Republican takeover of the House, Senate and presidency is important is because we can now avoid passing legislation to buttress the weakened walls of the left’s edifice and we can pass legislation to undermine these structures.”
But while an unlimited flood of money from a handful of multi-millionaires may indeed have a powerful influence on the outcome of the election, the candidates themselves are what voters should be watching in the days leading to the November 6th election. 2012 may be the last bastion of democracy, say critics of the Citizens United decision. The landmark case turned corporations into people with unlimited spending power.
The Supreme Court decision was contrary to a hundred years of legislative efforts to limit big money influence on US elections, because even legislators saw the dangers of too much outside money in campaigns. Additionally, few citizens would deny that their voices are being smothered under Super Pac money from special interest groups.
With polling data showing Obama and Romney running a tight race, all either candidate would have to do is ‘blow’ a debate or two, and the millionaire-funded Super Pac might find its muscle diminished. The one thing Americans have left to defend themselves against a complete corporate takeover of the US government is their vote. And the only thing that should really influence that, are the candidates themselves. All Americans will lose the next election, if money is allowed to influence their vote beyond the character, experience, vision and leadership ability to promote the collective interests of all its citizens, above all else.
Hopefully, voters who watch Barack Obama and Mitt Romney face off, live on stage in three presidential debates, will learn more about who deserves their vote, than Super Pac- funded, mud-slinging television advertising intended to incite fear and division, rather than truthfully inform voters about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.