Following the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, talk show host Bill Moyers said: "Romney was widely lauded as the winner of the first presidential debate. The loser, many agreed, was the truth..."
Both men clashed at the University of Denver on Wednesday, Oct. 3, offering their prescriptions on domestic and economic issues before moderator Jim Lehrer.
Jill Sheppard-Davenport, and her husband Lee, joined more than 100 people at a debate watch party at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Northwest.
"I enjoyed watching it and definitely approved of Obama's concentration on substance," said Sheppard-Davenport, a mental health specialist who has lived in the District for two years. "Romney engaged the audience but I got a little frustrated because it's not easy to look at a guy and say the things he did wrong, but I heard a lot more of that from Romney than what he would do going forward."
Conservative commentator and talk show host Armstrong Williams and Steve Walker, deputy national political director of the Democratic National Committee, who engaged in a mini-debate before the telecast, summarized the strong points of the candidates and explained what each needed to do to be deemed successful.
"We will continue to have the conversation about where we stand," Walker said. "We were going off a cliff, losing 800,000 jobs a month. Now we have 30 consecutive months of job growth. We were on the verge of losing all three automakers, now, they're healthy and can't keep up with the demand."
"The economy is not where we need it to be. We're working on an economy built to last, where everybody gets a fair shot and where it's a level playing field. With passage of the Affordable Care Act, 52 million people have [coverage], four million young people are on their parents' health [insurance plans] and women, congrats, you're no longer a pre-existing condition," Walker joked.
Williams threw participants for a loop with an unsolicited admission.
"I enjoyed Steve's eloquence and praise of the president. I believed in hope and change and voted for Obama four years ago. Don't be surprised, I'm free," he said. "Unemployment is not getting any better, we're losing jobs, not gaining."
Williams said the deficit must be trimmed and that more Americans should take responsibility for their health.
"Why should healthy people pay for the unhealthy?" he asked. "We should be rewarded for taking care of ourselves. The best health care is preventive care. We need to exercise, eat well and not smoke."
Viewers watched the debate on two large-screen televisions. Graphs below the debaters charted the reactions of 39 undecided Colorado voters.
Afterward, Lee Davenport shook his head and laughed wryly.
"I think it's almost impossible to imagine that our future is in the hands of the six percent who can't decide anything," he said. "We're really putting our hope and faith in them."
Davenport, 37 and an independent contractor, said he praised both candidates for appearing professional and engaging.
"They focused on issues of concern to people but I thought it would be difficult to get deeply into issues in the time allotted," he said.
Although the consensus of many at the event was that Obama did well and explained his positions thoroughly, he appeared listless, passing on the opportunity to challenge Romney about a pivotal issue, such as his dismissal of 47 percent of Americans at a private fundraiser.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said Romney lied when he "declared that pre-existing conditions are covered under his plan."
" ... His attempt to deceive voters on this issue was the biggest of many misleading and/or dishonest claims he made," said Krugman, an economist. "What Mr. Romney did in the debate, in other words, was, at best, to play a word game with voters, pretending to offer something substantive for the uninsured while actually offering nothing. For all intents and purposes, he lied about what his policy proposals will do."
Pundits pilloried Obama for his performance and Democrats worried that his less-than-stellar performance reinvigorated a sputtering Romney campaign.
Williams agreed during an interview two days later that Romney outclassed Obama.
"Romney showed up, Obama didn't," he said. "He [Romney] had everything to lose. Never underestimate an opponent. They did, and Obama wasn't prepared. Romney was in 21 debates – he was battle ready."
Williams said when someone is surrounded by sycophants, they will tell him he's great whether that's true or not, and they likely wouldn't push him, press those buttons to rattle her or do things to make her uncomfortable.
"Nobody [could] save him. He [Obama] did not have a teleprompter which is his greatest asset."
Williams said the shellacking is a wake-up call.
"Expect Obama to be prepared in the next debate," he asserted. "Will he be prepared? Absolutely. He's embarassed, humiliated. He didn't even know how to respond. He forgot everything because Romney shocked him. He was not there."
Yet, Williams said he didn't think Romney's debate win will make a measurable difference.
"No, it's not a game changer," he said. "For people who were dismissive of Romney, he got a first chance to show who he was. He was not seen through the lens of the media. This gives them [the public] an opportunity to take a closer look at him. At least they will take a closer look and he's saying 'I'm serious, intellectual, I'm bright.'"
Ray Barry, an international health care consultant, said he's mystified by Obama's performance.
"I don't know what happened. I don't understand that one. I think the president didn't show and then I'm hearing him on Friday and the points he should have been going at during the debate, he's hitting them," said Barry, a Virgin Islands resident. "The president should have called him on it when Romney said he's going to kill Big Bird. What impact is PBS going to have on the budget? [It's] 0.01 percent and the president didn't call him on the [crap]."
Barry, 47, said the debate result "affects [Obama] to the degree that people who're on the fence may begin to wonder about his ability to defend his record."
The debate, he said, marks the beginning of Romney's tack toward the center.
"He's not a right wing conservative," Barry said, adding that the GOP has "a serious inability to represent the mainstream Republican philosophy" because of the Tea Party and evangelical Christians.
November's winner could have a lasting impact on the Supreme Court, Barry said, with education, defense spending and health care being other significant issues to be tackled.
"New innovations are being developed to bend the cost-curve," he said. "The Affordable Care Act didn't do anything to deal with costs. The issue of pre-existing conditions is an important aspect to be dealt with but we have a serious, serious problem with ... costs."
Barry, who described himself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, said Obamacare didn't address costs which are the highest in the world, and he also said America should regulate drug prices.
"We pay the highest pharmaceutical costs in the world. Most other countries regulate the price of drugs. I think companies should make a profit but this uncontrolled environment when it comes to pricing of pharmaceuticals is insane," he said.
Barry said the election is a toss-up.
"I don't know who'll win; it's too close to call. There are so many different things that could happen before now and Nov. 6th. My crystal ball isn't working on that one. I have to work with whoever is there. I'm moving my business plan forward regardless," he said.