DENVER, Co. – It’s a brisk, cold post-debate day here in Denver, which pretty much describes the way Latino analysts are rating President Obama’s performance in last night’s presidential debate.
“I just don’t understand President Obama’s thought process last night,” says Stella Rouse, a Colombian-American political scientist at the University of Maryland. “Obama was too professorial, he got lost in details, and he seemed lethargic,” Rouse adds.
“I have to hand it to Romney, he was on top of it and he was the aggressor,” says Rouse. “Romney came up with zingers and said things that were not true, like saying Obama would cut 719 billion from Medicare, and he threw it out there like three times, and Obama didn’t respond, I don’t understand,” Rouse says.
Political scientist and NBC Latino contributor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto was pretty blunt in her assessment. “I think people connected with Romney, he hit it out of the park,” she says, adding, “If you landed from outer space and saw President Obama in the debate, you’d be like who is this guy?” She explains while President Obama enjoys great likeability among voters, last night Governor Romney dominated in style, substance and demeanor.
And it looks like independent voters agreed with Rouse’s and DeFrancesco Soto’s observations. In polls of independent voters taken after the debate, a large majority of voters thought Governor Romney did a better job.
Both analysts said many issues which could have been addressed, especially issues which mattered to many Latino voters, were left untouched.
“There was so many issues left untouched – women’s issues, immigration, details about education,” says DeFrancesco Soto.
Rouse agrees. “I thought certainly that in a domestic agenda debate they should have touched on immigration reform, the Dream Act – these issues have been at the forefront since both Republican and Democrats have run on these issues,” Rouse explains, who says she was disappointed that the moderator, PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, let the candidates dictate the issues discussed.
Regardless of the candidates’ performance, the debate did highlight the important fundamental philosophical and policy differences between the two parties. Governor Romney repeatedly emphasized he would repeal Obamacare and leave health care legislation to the individual states, and repeated his support for a Medicare voucher system for adults under Medicare age. Romney also strenuously opposed any increase in taxes to reduce the deficit, saying increasing taxes does not create jobs. President Obama on the other hand defended his belief that additional taxation on wealthier individuals and corporations needs to be part of deficit reduction, and defended increased government expenditures in areas such as education and energy investment.
Latino Republicans say Romney’s performance has given them momentum. “I’m delighted with his performance, I thought he hit 100,” said Romney supporter Al Cardenas. “I thought Mitt Romney addressed undecided voters from the heart and laid it out in a way that was clear.”
Latino Democrats, however, stressed after the debate that Governor Romney was not being truthful about how his proposed cuts would affect Latino families. Obama For America’s Gabriela Domenzain said last night that “facts matter, and Romney didn’t deliver them,” stressing that Romney’s policies would cut education investments in Pell Grants and money for elementary schools, as well as cuts in Medicaid. Ledy Garcia-Eckstein, a Colorado Latina watching the debate, said “Romney’s policies would bring us back to the financial brink.”
Both DeFrancesco Soto and Rouse think last night’s debate could tighten up the race, especially in swing states where it is neck-and-neck. Among Latinos, however, President Obama holds a large lead over Governor Romney, according to the latest NBC News/WSJ Journal/Telemundo poll.
The candidates move on to continue their campaigning in key swing states, President Obama holding a rally in Denver and then Wisconsin tomorrow and Governor Romney going to Virginia.
The next debates will have different formats. On a town-hall debate, Latinos interviewed hope more topics of interest to Hispanics will come up for discussion.