October 20, 2014

Looser debate format brings greater tension (VIDEO)

The second presidential debate gave audience members a chance to probe the candidates but a political observer says the town hall format led to some vague questioning.

“Some of them were not entirely well formulated and that allowed the candidates to run with whatever answer they wanted to give.” says Marquette University Political Scientist Julia Azari. This free-form format also let the candidates engage each other more which led to tense moments between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.

“You kept having moments where you wondered if they were going to throw punches,” says Azari. “Although it sounds like the viewership was high so maybe that will work in their favor.” She adds the subsequent news cycles will determine how the public perceives the candidates behavior.

After a question on ensuring equal pay, Romney talked of when he governor of Massachusetts he requested “binders full of women” to increase the number of female staff and cabinet members. Azari says those on the left see Romney’s narrative as “red meat” to criticize him.

This debate tackled more foreign policy and social issues than the first match up. Azari says the candidates’ answers likely reinforced what many already think of Obama and Romney’s beliefs on social policy.