A debate that was expected to be full of “zingers” was surprisingly zing-free Wednesday night.
Romney has faced tough questions about his business record and private equity in each of his political campaigns. This line of criticism was the turning point in Romney’s losing 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy. The Obama team has hammered Romney mercilessly on his leadership of Bain Capital, and the resulting plant closures, with months of television ads.
There wasn’t a single mention of Bain Wednesday night, even when Romney appeared to walk right into one during a debate over tax breaks for companies that export American jobs.
“You said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas,” Romney remarked. “Look: I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I, maybe, need to get a new accountant.”
When Obama spoke next, he didn’t seize on the line. Instead the president said he and Romney probably have “a somewhat similar position” on Social Security, surrendering a decades-old talking point Democrats have successfully wielded against Republicans.
Obama didn’t fault any of Romney’s budget cuts as governor of Massachusetts. The president brought up Romney’s Bay State record only to say he “did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state” on health care reform.
One popular debate drinking game encouraged viewers to finish their drinks if Obama brought up Romney’s secretly videotaped comments about the “47 percent.” But players went thirsty: Obama didn’t make a single reference to the controversy.
The president did accuse Romney of defending tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, particularly those benefiting oil companies and wealthy Americans who own corporate jets.
Obama also charged Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan with wanting to “turn Medicare into a voucher program,” but only after Romney mentioned Medicare cuts he said were part of Obamacare.
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