Political commentator and author John Fund tells Newsmax that Tuesday night’s presidential debate doesn’t change the “basic momentum” of the race: Mitt Romney is rising and President Obama is struggling.
He also says that while Obama improved on his performance in the first debate, he “can’t run away from certain facts” and continues to poll under 50 percent — the “danger zone” for an incumbent.
Fund is the National Affairs columnist for National Review and a former columnist for the Wall Street Journal. His latest book is “Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.”
Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Fund offers his take on the second presidential debate.
“It was a rock ‘em sock ‘em debate,” he says.
“President Obama clearly improved on his dismal performance in Denver 10 days ago. But Romney made a blistering indictment of the administration’s last four years.
“I do not think President Obama really was able to answer the fundamental question: how can he assure the American people that the next four years, if he is re-elected, will be better than the last four years?
Fund said the debate was "muddled by the unfortunate intervention of moderator Candy Crowley, who basically decided to break out of her moderator duties and become a fact checker" — and a fact checker who got it wrong.
“On style, Romney lost some points due to his altercation with Candy Crowley, as the audience was not sure who was right. President Obama looked a little angry or peevish — he still looked as if he did not want to be there."
But Fund said there was nothing in the debate that changes the basic momentum of this race. "Romney is rising, based on increased enthusiasm along his base. Obama, the incumbent, is still struggling under 50 percent and that is the danger zone for an incumbent.”
Fund said Obama's poll numbers have dropped significantly after the first debate in Denver and have showed no sign of recovery.
“Next week’s debate is going to be on foreign policy. I think we will be revisiting the Libya issue and probably not to Mr. Obama’s benefit, as we will know even more then than we do now.
“This race is still very, very close. It is still within the margin of error. But Romney has the enthusiasm” and he solidified his bases “at least as much last night as President Obama did.”
Commenting on the aggressive tone of the debate, Fund says: “It helps them with their partisans because they want a fighter. They want someone who takes it to the other side, but at times it was not really aggressive, it was almost schoolyard bullying. Both people interrupted each other. They clearly do not like each other. Independent voters, more likely than not, will not support either candidate. They might just stay home.”
In the debate last night and on the campaign trail, Obama has repeatedly resorted to calling Romney a liar while Romney says the president is not being honest with the American people. As for who voters are more likely to believe and trust more, Fund tells Newsmax: “They are likely to believe neither because they all think politicians put the best possible spin on whatever they are saying.
“They are not in the role of playing arbiter of who is the fact teller. However, I do think that President Obama cannot run away from certain facts. Unemployment is still way too high, the economy is growing way too slowly, and nothing that President Obama has been talking about is likely to change that in the minds of many American people.
“What matters is the incumbent has a four-year record to defend. He did the best he could last night. I am just not sure it was good enough.”
Fund is critical of Crowley’s job moderating the debate, in particular her contradiction of a Romney statement on Libya.
“I have watched debates since 1976, and I have never, ever, seen a moderator step in and basically take sides on a factual question,” he declares.
“What is worse, she basically got it wrong. She basically admitted that Romney was mostly right afterwards on CNN and I think it is an egregious violation of the rules.
"Now you cannot do anything about that, but it was just bizarre. It was a tag team, it was two against one, and it threw Romney off stride and I do not think it was kosher.
“I think it will hurt the media as supposedly these moderators are picked in order to be objective and not to tilt to one side. Libya is not a crucial issue right now in terms of how people are going to decide how to vote. The economy and jobs still very much trump that. But it is very unfortunate for a moderator to inject herself into a situation like that. This is the first time I have ever seen somebody step out of [the moderator’s] role and transgress that role.
Fund offered his analysis of the presidential race in several key swing states:
- “Ohio is very close. If there is one state where President Obama has probably been helped by the auto bailout, it is Ohio. I would say Ohio right now leans very narrowly to Obama."
- “Pennsylvania is going to be the surprise swing state. It is going to be highly competitive within the margin of error. Pennsylvania has more electoral votes than Ohio, so if Romney were to win Pennsylvania he would not need Ohio so much. Pennsylvania is too close to call."
- “Virginia in the end is going to vote Republican. The state is more of a Southern state than anything else. The coal country is up in arms against Obama’s environmental policies and Romney is starting to reassure suburbanites in the Virginia suburbs."
- “Florida looks like it is slipping away from Obama. Romney is building a significant lead in most of the polls and Florida has traditionally voted Republican. In fact, since 1980 it has only voted Democratic twice.”
Looking ahead to the last few weeks of the campaign, Fund says we can expect to see “a lot of ads, especially in the swing states, and of course a final debate, where Romney will cast try to cast out President Obama’s foreign policy successes.
“Obama last night said, once again, Osama bin Laden is dead, but I think Romney is going to come back and ask him a very poignant question about exactly how did Ambassador Stevens die [in Libya] and who is responsible.”
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