Election 2012: Mixed reviews on first presidential debate

benw@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 4, 2012 

A day after President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney squared off in their first prime-time debate, supporters of both were mixed in their opinions, but gave the former Massachusetts governor high marks on style in the contest.

"He had a great night. He was prepared," said Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who was guest speaker Thursday at the basic training graduation of Fort Benning's 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. "He was, I think, very down to earth. I think he had a leg up on the president last night."

John D. Van Doorn, chair of the Muscogee County Democratic Committee, said Romney was more upbeat, but the president offered more specifics on different programs.

"I think on style points most people would say that Romney looked a little more upbeat and Obama seemed a little bit less energetic," Van Doorn said.

Views from Isakson and Van Doorn were among a sample of voters' opinions after the first of three debates scheduled before the Nov. 6 general election.

Although the Obama campaign claimed Romney lacked specifics on his tax and budget plans, Isakson said he presented all the statistics and specifics Wednesday on everything that anybody would want to know.

"Gov. Romney in a very direct and forceful but powerful way gave all the statistics, all the specifics and everything anybody wanted to know on his tax plan and his budget-cutting plan," Isakson said before the graduation ceremony.

"I think that's what really impressed everybody. The expectation was that he hadn't been specific enough.

"He was the most specific of the two of them last night."

With such an important decision on Election Day, Van Doorn said selection of the president won't be made on style but on substance in dealing with issues.

"If you listen to the debate on the radio or read the transcript, most of the people would say Obama had the edge when it came to specifics on programs," Van Doorn said.

"I'm pretty independent when I'm looking at things. I say where's the beef?"

Van Doorn said Romney had a lot of glittering generalities about government but very little substance.

"I certainly give Romney style points, but I think Obama did what he needed to do," he said.

"I'm really proud of him not taking the bait on a number of issues."

John Sizemore, who was visiting Columbus from Tennessee, wouldn't state what he thought of the debate but said he already knows how he'll cast his vote.

"I can tell you more about what I like after the election," he said. "I wasn't interested in anything anybody said. I already made my mind up.

"Oh, sure, way before last night."

Joe Ellis, an Obama supporter and member of a veterans group from West Virginia, cautioned people not to listen to the media's spin on the debate.

"You can't listen to what the spin the news media put on it because they want you to think what they want you to think," Ellis said.

"I don't want nobody to try to spin my thoughts on it. I want to be free to think what I feel about it."

Ellis said he didn't think Romney outdid Obama, but the former governor was more sensible than normal.

"He didn't come off foolish like he normally does," Ellis said. "Just watching the debate last night would not make me vote for him.

"I think everybody that changed their mind based on what they saw last night is just a bigger fool than Romney has been on some of the things he said."

Kathleen and James Brigance said they still plan to vote Democratic even though they're from conservative Waco, Texas.

"I think Obama tried to hold his tongue," said Kathleen, who was in town visiting her grandson.

James said he thinks Obama will be stronger for the next debate.

"It upset him a little that Romney kept interrupting him," he said of the president.

Phyllis Dennis of Atlanta described Romney as a candidate who is not for the middle class.

"Romney is not for the people," she said. "He is for the rich people, not for the middle class.

"The other thing about the small people, the little people, he is really not for America. He is for one area, the rich."

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