The answers to the last question — the closing arguments — were revealing for both candidates.
Asked what misperception about him he most wanted to correct, Romney exposed his glass jaw, bringing up implicitly his disdainful words about the 47 percent who “don’t take responsibility for their lives,” and consider themselves “victims.” Trust me, he said:
I care about a hundred percent of the American people. I want a hundred percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I understand what it takes to — to make a bright and prosperous future for America again. I — I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I’m a guy who wants to help, with the experience I have, the American people.
Don’t listen to what I said when I thought I was off camera. Don’t look at my agenda. Trust me. “I understand what it takes.” The words mean what I say they mean.
Obama didn’t pass up the opening, clobbering Romney by listing those slurred when Romney said,
… behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility… folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives, veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country, students who are out there trying to, hopefully, advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams, soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now, people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years, because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.
But Obama didn’t end where he started. He began the debate by ticking off an agenda for the future: promoting manufacturing, creating good schools, capturing the energy future and asking the wealthy to pay a bit more.
Much more of this — and much bolder policies — are vital both for the country and for his reelection. Obama is vulnerable because the economy is in such lousy shape. His campaign has been weakened by its apparent strategic decision not to seek a mandate for bold policies that will work to make this economy work for working people again. Instead the president has seemed intent on trying to sell the progress we’ve made, while exposing how Romney would take the country in the wrong direction.
The president succeeded last night — as his campaign has effectively done earlier — in revealing just how empty a suit Romney is. This Bain candidate is of, for and by the 1%. Romney’s five points are more put-on than plan. But people are looking for change. Romney wants voters to decide if they want more of the same. If they vote on that, he’ll have the edge. Obama must make this a choice between Romney’s wrong-headed agenda and a mandate for bold reform. The president’s campaign has done a good job of exposing Romney, but has done far too little to define and demand a mandate for the change vital to our future.
Read more from Robert L. Borosage on the Huffington Post as well as his take on the candidates jobs and budget portion of the debate