Romney supporters enjoyed many priceless moments. Nevertheless, his coup d’etat came not in comedy, but in his utterly surprising support of government regulation.
Early in the debate, he mocked Obama’s petulant citation of faulty “facts”:
“Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true but just keep repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that is not the case.”
Toward the end, he reiterated this attack, saying, “Mr. President, you are entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”
These comments both fulfilled the Republican hope for a strong candidate and displayed the wit and humor that disprove the oft-repeated claim that Romney is “out of touch.”
His style drove the point home. As Obama struggled to articulate the errors with Romney’s plan, the GOP candidate listed bullet points of his proposal, one after another, quick as a wink.
When moderator Jim Lehrer asked Romney about regulation, he tried to lead the businessman into a trap. He led the challenger into a clear attack on regulation, asking if he considered it useful or not.
Romney surprised all, saying, “Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work without regulation.” This one statement assured his victory in the debate.
Obama continued to attack Romney as if the Republican opposed regulation and aimed to increase taxes on the middle class. This one statement derailed Obama’s strongest attack. It denied him his best argument- that, like Bush, Romney’s deregulation would lead to another financial crisis, destroying the economy he pledges to restore.
The statement also solidified Romney’s greatest strength- the ability to compromise.
Republicans and Democrats alike have attacked the former Massachusetts Governor as a “flip-flopper.” Nevertheless, Romney’s ability to listen to both sides enabled him to balance Massachusetts’ budget with a Democrat majority.
Can a conservative candidate support regulation? In principle, yes. All law is regulation, and the defense of private property is necessary to any free economy. Conservatives tend to attack regulation not because it is bad in principle, but because the government tends to overregulate and make bad decisions.
True to this principle, Romney again went on the offensive.
“At the same time,” he continued, “regulation can become excessive, it can become out of date. And that’s happened with some of the legislation that’s been passed under President Obama’s term.”
“You’ve seen some of the regulation become excessive and it has hurt the economy,” he said.
He attacked Obama’s key financial reform effort- the Dodd-Frank bill. Designating five banks as “too big to fail” is the exact opposite of a check on big finance.
Obama blamed big banks for the 2008 collapse, touting his support for “the toughest Wall Street requirements since the 1930s.”
On the contrary, Romney called this policy “the biggest kiss that’s been given to New York banks that I’ve ever seen.”
Another iconic moment followed, when Obama attacked Romney for cutting taxes to companies that sent jobs overseas. “Look,” Romney said, “I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
This admission, if delivered wrongly, would have proven Romney more “out of touch” than ever. But when he said it, facing Obama square on and unblinking, the President had no response.
Many will cite Obama’s unpreparedness, his natural weakness in debate, his lack of a TelePrompTer, as the cause of Romney’s clear victory. But none of these facets, while true, explains the clear rout delivered to the first black President.
Romney’s humor and wit, his ready knowledge, and his ability to compromise all emerged in one moment- and Obama knew his chief argument would fall on deaf ears.
Regulation is good, but what kind of regulation? Avoiding Lehrer’s red herring and Obama’s best sully, Romney claimed the first of many victories.
This article was originally published on Hillsdale Natural Law Review, Tyler's personal blog.