On October 16, President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney met at Hofstra University for the second of three presidential debates. The first debate had taken place on October 3 at Denver University, focusing on domestic policy. Obama had a poor showing and Romney was considered the winner of the debate. The second debate however, which focused on both domestic and foreign policy, saw these roles reversed. Obama won the second debate, though not to the same extent that he lost the previous one. Aside from who won this debate, it’s important to note the accuracy of the points that both candidates had made.
The debate began with a college student voicing his concern about finding employment after graduation. Romney responded not only with his plan of expanding the Pell Grant program, but also with criticism of the performance of the Obama administration. He argued that while the unemployment rate remained around 7.8 percent, the labor force has been decreasing for the past four years. He stated that if the labor force had remained the same, the current unemployment rate would amount to 10.7 percent. While it’s true that the labor force has been decreasing, this trend began in 2000 and is largely attributed to the baby boomer generation going into retirement.
Following up on the issue of employment, Romney further asserted that his plan of “bankrupting Detroit” was precisely what the president had done. This too is misleading. While GM and Chrysler both went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, this was aided by an $80 billion bailout of federal funds. Romney advocated instead for the private sector to finance and reconstruct the auto industry. The distinction to be made is that most analysts believe that with the ongoing financial crisis, the private sector was unwilling to do so. Without added funding, it is unlikely that GM and Chrysler would have recovered.
Of course, Romney was not the only one to make misleading claims. In response to the first question, Obama said that he wants to build on the five million private sector jobs that were created in the last 30 months. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 4.5 million jobs have been created since February, 2010. While this figure doesn’t discriminate between high and low income jobs, it also neglects the 4.3 million jobs lost the year before. Thus, the Obama administration falls short of overseeing the creation of five million private sector jobs.
Obama had also misrepresented Romney’s immigration policy. He had claimed that Romney referred to Arizona’s SB-1070 law as model for the nation. The former Governor rightfully responded that only the “e-verify” portion of the law was a model for the nation. This provision requires employers to check an online database for the legal status of their workers.
There are numerous other examples of inaccurate statements made by both Obama and Romney. According to GOP.com, the president had “lied” 13 times during the debate. However, according to Thinkprogress.com, Romney told 31 “myths” in just 41 minutes. While both candidates made misleading statements, Romney had made more than twice as many. Unfortunately for him, Obama still left the debate victorious.