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Great debate good for our nation

Last week, the first presidential debate of 2012 was held in Colorado, and given the reality of a close presidential election, Colorado was an excellent choice with its evenly divided voter base.

Colorado is a “swing state” in November, and every event like the debate Wednesday night can influence the outcome of who wins the electoral votes of the state.

Mitt Romney had a great debate and, on style alone, dominated the 90 minute exchange showing wit, energy and detailed knowledge that will re-energize his campaign and Republicans across the nation.

And that is good for America. It is very good for America.

Before Wednesday night the Romney campaign was looking like the intermission in a bad movie with folks heading for the exits before the final curtain came down.

Candidates lower on the ticket were beginning to distance themselves from the top of the ticket, and fundraisers, always tied to trends, was looking to invest in other elections than the presidential race.

It would not be a stretch to suggest that, had Romney not done so well in this first debate, there would have been a good many empty seats in the Romney theatre before November.

But all of that changed this week and the Romney campaign is back in the race and looking like it is more than ready to make a run for a competitive finish.

What makes this good for America is that, political junkies aside, Americans do not get energized for elections until September or October. If the perception is that the outcome is already largely determined, then the attention of voters turns to other things.

Romney has, by his “who is that guy” performance this week, perhaps started on a path to making the race more competitive and more informative for voters.

Hopefully the coming three debates will now capture and hold larger and larger audiences as the theatre of combat between two men who would be president is played out by themselves and their ticket mates in the weeks ahead.

If so the end result will be an America more informed about the differences in this campaign between the parties and why this election really is a choice that may impact the nation for generations.

The shift in the Republican Party over the last three decades has been the major political impact of this period of American politics. The Republican Party of today would reject the ideas of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George Bush as too liberal and too compassionate.

The Democratic Party has remained impervious to change and has made little attempt to reach out to would-be moderates who are fiscally conservative or socially moderate.

And that brings us to this presidential election.

Mitt Romney had a great advantage beyond style this week in the debates. His plans have remained nebulous at best, and so defending them was as simple as saying “that’s not in my plan” or “that’s in my plan” without ever showing any plan.

President Obama had no such luxury, tied to his programs by his responsibilities as president.

So Romney had nothing to defend and was able to argue to be for all things good and against all things bad simply by claiming that was in his mostly invisible policy.

To voters that means you cannot simply watch the debates to determine your vote, for debates show a great deal more about style and mental agility than they show about actual governing policy.

Where the candidates argue over issues voters need to do their own research to find the truth of those arguments, using fact check sites where possible.

But that too is good for America as informed voters make smart decisions.

As for President Obama in the debate last week, the best thing that can be said is as a debater his is a great stump speech speaker.

The President might want to prepare a good deal more before facing Mr. Romney again.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.