On the second debate: questions

UPDATE at the bottom.

Last time around, I suggested a selection of nine or so questions I thought would be included in last night’s town hall debate at Hofstra University. Time to self-grade:

The questions I thought we’d see included the following:

  • One on abortion, focused on costs (namely, free for poor women);
  • One on birth control, Sandra Fluke and/or Todd Akin;
  • One on the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan;
  • One on the evils of outsourcing and companies making profits;
  • One on maintenance of “good loopholes” in the tax code;
  • One on pre-existing conditions;
  • One on the loss of Medicare or Social Security benefits posed by the Ryan Plan;
  • One on money for schools or student loan debt (if that hasn’t been addressed already as part of the “good loopholes” in the tax code question; and
  • One question out of left (or right) field: perhaps on The Fed (to represent a random undecided Ron Paul voter).
  • In the end, Candy Crowley got in more questions – but only because there were no opening or closing statements. How did I do in guessing the questions themselves? Some of my guesses were spot on, others were indirectly covered, and a few areas were covered which needed covered which I didn’t think would be. I’ll give myself a Ding for spot-on items, a Ping for areas where a questioner didn’t address but the candidates brought it up, and a Clang for total misses. Details:

    Abortion and birth control: Indirectly covered. A question on equal pay for women (ding for out of left field) gave President Obama opportunity to not only discuss his grandmother and the glass ceiling she encountered, but to go on to talk about both areas and his differences with Governor Romney. His responses steered not to cost but to access, keeping with the canard posed throughout the primaries by the media. The sequencing of the responses to this question kept Romney from countering, giving Obama a strong point with his base mid-debate. Two pings.

    Afghanistan: Clang. I suggested, even after Senator Clinton’s acceptance of responsibility for Benghazi, that there would be an Afghanistan question instead, and that this would serve as the sole Foreign Policy question. To the former, surprisingly, a question of culpability was posed. To the latter, with the exception of questions that gave Governor Romney the opportunity to touch on China, trade, and currency manipulation in the “How you aren’t Bush” and outsourcing questions (expect much more on this next Monday), this was the extent of the foreign policy discussion. Speaking of…

    Outsourcing: Um, Ding. I said jobs and the economy would come up in this context. But a broader set of questions on the economy were posed – good to see as it is the touchstone issue of this election. Students looking for work, the cost of gas, disappointment with the President’s job, even the “Bush question” all had the economy at their heart.

    the maintenance of “good loopholes” in the tax code:
    Also Ding. I even discussed some of the particular loopholes discussed – the mortgage exemption, student loan credits.

    Healthcare an pre-existing conditions: Surprisingly, left off the table as a question, but brought up very briefly and indirectly by each candidate. POTUS did make reference at one point to Gov. Romney’s plan “being just like mine”, and Romney made reference to Obamacare and its’ elimination as key to reducing the deficit and securing Medicare. By the way, the iOS spell-checker does not like but when i ask for replacements it says “No Replacements Found”. Irony is sweet, especially tech irony. Ping.

    Social Security and Medicare: I don’t know if this means Paul Ryan did his job, but the members of the panel of “undecideds” at Hofstra who asked questions wasn’t full of older folks. They were all a part of Frank Luntz’s panel in Nevada, which was calling “Bulls–t” on the President’s act. POTUS did bring up Romney’s plan (or at least his perception of Romney’s plan) in the “Bush question”. I can live with a Clang here.

    Schools and/or student loan debt: The first question, on the college grad job market, led both candidates to bring up loans send cost effectiveness in education – for Romney, reducing the rate of growth in cost of education, Pell Grants, and in-state tuition for good grades; for Obama, community colleges. Ping.

    “Left field/Right field” questions: Several. One would think Candy Crowley had Jeannie Moos pick the questions here. The “tell me how you’re different from Bush” question is a natural affinity question for disillusioned Obama voters, reflecting the composition of the town hall audience, as Volokh conspirator Jim Lindgren discussed. The final question (tell me something about you that contradicts public perception of you) is the ultimate undecided question: it is the equivalent of an undecided car buyer, trying to choose among two very different cars (say, a Maserati and a Smart Car), asking about the respective vehicles’ floor mats, as if that will serve as the tiebreaker. It is the equivalent of resolving a soccer match with penalty kicks. Someone finds it valuable. The unity set of those who do may be the questioner him or herself. The rest of us are left scratching our heads. Same goes for the “fair pay” question serving as the “Womens’ Issues” question – there are no doubt women in the left utterly perturbed at the lack of a question by an “undecided” woman on access to birth control or abortion, which goes to their understanding of what represents an “undecided” voter. Ding to the concept, Clang to the actual questions.

    Outright misses? The question on gas prices. The immigration question. These are questions which do reflect actual undecided voters. I also liked the “I voted for you, I’m seeing no results, show me results” question. To which the President had no good answer and Romney had his most effective response of the night.

    So my totals? Two and a half dings, Four Pings, two and a half Clangs. Three flat-out misses due to more time for questions.

    I can live with that performance; I’m not an actual paid pundit.

    UPDATE: I forgot a question – the one on guns. Provided by an OfA campaign staffer. Undecided indeed.


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