DENVER – Americans demanded details and, boy, did they get them.
In their first debate, President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney delved into dense discussions on taxes, health care, entitlement programs and more. Each candidate unleashed a flurry of statistics and complex equations for bringing down the debt. And they tossed around references to policy proposals like Simpson-Bowles and laws like Dodd-Frank that are hard to understand for many Washington insiders, let alone average voters.
It’s fun, isn’t it? Romney interjected at one point.
The wonkish policy debate was a stark contrast to the months-long campaign, filled with broad-brush and harsh attacks by the two candidates on one another. And it was a clear appeal to the small sliver of undecided voters, who are less partisan and more interested in hearing solutions.
Romney, a successful businessman, seemed to relish the down-in-the-weeds debate.
Obama, a former constitutional law professor, was willing to play along. But his long, detailed answers may have fulfilled his campaign adviser’s biggest fears. They had spent weeks working on winnowing down the president’s answers, only to watch him revert to the long-winded answers that they believe don’t always connect with the public.
At times, moderator Jim Lehrer seemed to struggle to keep control of the conversation. So Romney tried to take over for him.
Some of Romney’s confidence may have come from the fact that many of the detailed points he made on the debate stage have long been a part of his regular campaign speeches. While his fluency on complex economic issues may not always translate with voters on the campaign trail expecting a rousing speech, it gave him an opportunity to look confident standing toe-to-toe with the president.