By Patrick B. McGuigan
A quartet of Oklahoma leaders, two of them facing a November election themselves, provided CapitolBeatOK with “late night views” on the historic presidential debate between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
It’s no revelation to report that the candidates facing each other in Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District have distinctly different views of policy and politics.
Concerning the Denver debate, however, there is one thing they might agree on. After Wednesday’s presidential debate the Democratic challenger, Tom Guild, expressed it well:
“Clearly the candidates see many major issues very differently.”
Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. James Lankford enters the last month of the campaign with a fundraising edge over challenger Guild, an emeritus professor from the University of Central Oklahoma.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Lankford gave the edge to his party’s presidential hopeful, saying, “This debate became a clear articulation of two perspectives on government. Romney articulated a vision for state and local solutions and the President emphasized Washington-based solutions.
“The President focused on hitting the higher income Americans to solve the debt, but Romney focused on growing the economy to solve the debt.”
Lankford touted Gov. Romney’s “articulation of foundational American principles was refreshing as he spoke on economic freedom, state solutions and an optimistic future.
“I was amazed to hear the President talk about the $716 billion cut to Medicare that ObamaCare implements like it was no big deal. But, the administration just diverted $8.3 billion into Medicare Advantage programs October 1, so millions of seniors would not lose their Medicare Advantage plan before the election. Cuts to current Medicare recipients do have an effect.”
As did many other observers, including some supporters of the president, Lankford gave Romney multiple “style points” as well, saying:
“From the start of the evening, Romney looked confident and familiar with the facts and figures of the federal budget and the cost of federal healthcare. I was astounded to see the President look uncomfortable throughout the debate and unable to respond to basic issues related to his policies and the current direction of the country. It was obvious that the President did not want to debate the past four years.”
Guild had a much different analysis. He told CapitolBeatOK, “On tax policy, Romney wants another round of tax cuts on top of extension of the Bush tax cuts. Romney campaigned in the primary touting a $5 trillion tax cut, which would benefit the wealthy more than those in the middle income or lower income brackets.
“He wants to increase the troop levels in the U.S. military by 100,000 troops, which is at odds with the Department of Defense, which calls for the gradual elimination of 100,000 troops. He talked about not continuing with federal budget deficits, which would harm the next generation. The problem with his plans is that if you cut taxes another $5 trillion and increase defense spending by $2 trillion, the budget deficit will go in the wrong direction and balloon instead of abate.”
Turning to his preferred candidate, Guild observed, “President Obama indicated on tax policy that he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts only for those making under $250,000 a year and for each dollar earned over that amount the tax rate would rise to 39.6 percent — the rate that was in effect under former President Bill Clinton.
“He also indicated that the Department of Defense has announced a policy preference for cutting the military gradually by 100,000 troops. Obama also indicated that his administration has cut billions of dollars in waste by reducing Medicare and Medicaid fraud and that to get the budget deficit under control; a realistic target would be a ratio of $2.50 in cuts to every $1 in new revenue.”
The former political science teacher continued, “Because ending the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 would increase revenues by approximately $900 billion over ten years and with paring down the military gradually over time, his plan seems to be more realistic in terms of getting the budget deficits gradually under control.”
Guild jabbed at Gov. Romney’s proposed changes to Medicare, saying, “Romney favors turning Medicare into what has been referred to as a voucher program for those under 55. Obama favors maintaining traditional Medicare for all Americans.”
Guild viewed with interest one of debate’s most “wonkish” policy-oriented jousts, centered around financial institutions and the U.S. government. He reflected, “Romney favors reducing government regulations on big banks and Obama favors maintaining the new regulatory scheme under the Dodd-Frank law.”
Guild continued, “Romney favors repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and Obama favors maintaining the law. Obama indicates the improvements in the ACA which would keep Americans out of bankruptcy by removing lifetime limits on policies, covering pre-existing condition and reducing costs through the power of group plans which will lower rates are worthy goals and worth fighting for. Romney indicated he would replace the ACA, but wasn’t specific as to what he would favor in a replacement law.”
Concurring with Guild’s perspective, state Democratic vice chair Dana Orwig, a resident of MidTown Oklahoma City, told CapitolBeatOK, “I was looking forward to the debate and was not disappointed — I enjoyed every minute.”
She continued, “One of the things that I found most intriguing was early on when Governor Romney said quite specifically that he was not going to cut taxes for the rich, and then said twice that he would not support any tax cut that added to the deficit. But he has, as the President observed, been running for eighteen months on a position of cutting taxes for everyone.”
Orwig, formerly a state legislative candidate herself, concluded, “That’s been a hallmark of his campaign and since I agree that most Americans do need a tax cut, I came away more confused about Romney’s plan than before. It made me wonder if he’s confused as well.”
Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, an Edmond Republican elected to statewide office in 2010, would have no quarrel with Guild’s contention that the debate portrayed deep policy differences between the two political parties.
In his late night interview with CapitolBeatOK, Lamb reflected, “”It was a debate of stark contrasts. Governor Romney started out strong with specifics. He communicated a vision and agenda that reflect Oklahoma values of basic government functions and individual responsibility. He repeated his commitment to approve the Keystone Pipeline which would mean additional jobs for our citizens.”
Lamb continued, “It was unfortunate for our state’s strong defense profile that the president criticized Governor Romney’s proposed defense spending.”
Lamb, serving as small business advocate in Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet, concluded, “Ninety-seven percent of Oklahoma is employed by small business. Romney understood and spoke with specifics to small business issues.”
Note: Additional coverage of the debate reactions can be found Thursday at www.CapitolBeatOK.