DENVER, Co. – Latinos around the country sat down in debate parties or in the comfort of their own homes to hear the two men who want to be president debate ‘mano a mano’ at the first presidential debate at the University of Denver tonight. The verdict? The debate dragged out on some issues, but did not touch on other issues voters wanted to talk about.
“In terms of content, for the average voter, a lot went over their heads; they spent too much time on specific terms like Dodd-Frank, and did not touch on other issues,” says political scientist Sylvia Manzano, of Latino Decisions.
Marisol Bolaños, who works in the Denver public schools, says she wishes they would have spoken about the DREAM Act. Alvina Vazquez, of the progressive but non-partisan non-profit Strong Colorado, says though the economy is important, so is immigration, which was not talked about.
After the debate, many political analysts said Governor Romney seemed to give the better performance, and Manzano agrees. “I think Romney was certainly stronger, he did have a higher burden, he had to maximize the opportunity, and in that respect there is no question he gave a stronger performance,” Manzano adds.
Moments after the debate ended, in the adjacent “spin room,” Latino Republicans were very happy with Romney’s performance.
“I think this is going to change the election; what you saw was Governor Romney being knowledgeable, with specific ideas, whereas the President was flat and perhaps he was tired,” says former Florida Republican congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. ”It was a decisive victory,” adds Diaz-Balart.
Senator Marco Rubio said President Obama “showed discomfort talking about economic issues; he didn’t have a fundamental understanding of how jobs are created.”
But Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa defended President Obama’s performance. About Romney, Villaraigosa said, “yes, he was confident, but he didn’t say much that reflected the facts and reality,” he said. “I thought President Obama did very well, and made statements that reflected data and the facts.”
Juan Sepulveda, of the Democratic National Committee, said he thought President Obama accomplished what they hoped he would. “I think he did well, we were hoping to present specific contrasts, on education, Medicare, on the Affordable Care Act, and we did,” said Sepulveda. ”People had pretty low expectations for Governor Romney and high expectations for Obama, but for us what was important was to show the contrast.”
Some Democrats were surprised Obama did not mention Romney’s “47 percent” comments, or any women issues, which have garnered support among women and other voters. ”I don’t know if it was a strategic decision or what” says Manzano.
There will be two more debates, and Latinos hope some issues not even touched in tonight’s event will be part of the discussion.