President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney squared off in yet another debate on Tuesday night that proved testy, tight, and memorable.
Political commentator George Will called it “immeasurably the best debate” in his memory. Pundits have suggested Obama won by making up much of the ground he lost in the first go-round by being too passive or polite, as this time Obama came out firing. Republicans have countered that their man, Romney, held his own, and that Obama got a little help from the moderator. And then, of course, there are those infamous “binders full of women” that became an instant Internet meme sensation once the words left Romney’s mouth.
As one of the fresher faces on the local political scene, Chris Girdler had a unique perspective on the debates. In fact, he’s likely one of the few Pulaski Countains who can say he’s actually met Romney before.
Girdler wears many hats for the Republican Party. He is District Director for Congressman Hal Rogers, helping manage the Somerset native’s affairs in the Fifth Congressional District while Rogers is often in Washington D.C. He also won a position in the State Senate, beating three other area candidates to claim the retiring Vernie McGaha’s old 15th District seat in May.
He’s been a part of The Republican Party of Kentucky’s Executive Committee, a president of the Pulaski County Lincoln Club, a Republican organization, and numerous other local civic organizations, making him very plugged into GOP politics.
Girdler met Romney last year at a dinner in Lexington. “I was very impressed with his humbleness and how easy he was to approach,” said Girdler.
It’s the qualities of Romney the man more than just Romney the Republican that Girdler appreciated in the candidate’s debate performance on Tuesday. Girdler sidestepped much of the rancor that goes along with politics, praising his man while being careful not to trash the Democratic opponent.
“I’m sure that voters on both sides of the argument are happy with their candidates (on Tuesday),” said Girdler. “It was a good discussion filled with emotion and tension. Both candidates did a good job of discussing their believes, but I feel that Romney did a better job of answering the questions rather than just sticking to political talking points.”
Girdler said that Romney was “professional” and “handled himself well,” even as the political fur was flying on subjects including Libya, the economy, and Romney’s much-repeated remark about 47 percent of Americans not paying federal income taxes. Romney challenged Obama’s record over the last four years, and suggested that Americans already knew what they’d get with a second term for the Democrat — more of the same.
Of course, Romney also mentioned having “binders full of women” when discussing his efforts to hire more women to his cabinet while Governor of Massachusetts. Though his intent was to actually show support for women in the workplace, the reaction from his party opposition was one that suggested an objectified view of females.
“No matter what you say, people are going to put a twist on it and turn it around,” said Girdler. “I think the comment was meant with good intent. I applaud him for reaching out to hire the best personnel he could to surround himself with in his cabinet.”
After the first debate, Obama saw the negative reaction he received as a result of his being too “polite” to Romney. Now that Obama has been perceived to have won this most recent debate between the two men, are there any weak spots in Romney’s strategy that he could firm up before the next debate, to be held next week in Florida with a focus on foreign policy?
“I don’t believe he has a weak point,” said Girdler of Romney. “I think that he’s one of the most well-rounded candidates we’ve had in a long time. As long as he’s able to maintain his professionalism and civility and talk about his background in business, he’ll be fine.
“Government does not create jobs; business does,” added Girdler, echoing Romney’s push for employment to be the main sticking point of the campaign. “If he can get that message out there and get people out to work, he’ll be fine.”
For a Democratic perspective, Young Pulaski Democrat president Halyn Roth was contacted by the Commonwealth Journal, as he has been for the previous two debates (including the Joe Biden-Paul Ryan debate at Centre College), but the call was not immediately returned.