Obama’s reckoning?

By Nigel Wilson

It was standing room only as an energetic audience gathered for the Frontline Club’s monthly showpiece First Wednesday. Chaired by the BBC’s ever exuberant Paddy O’Connell, a panel of political experts and commentators tackled the state of play as the US gears up for the Presidential election on 6 November.

Following Mitt Romney’s controversial response to the attacks on the US missions in Egypt and Libya, proceedings opened with an inspection of the candidates’ foreign policy credentials. The speakers discussed his British blunder when he suggested London was unprepared for the 2012 Olympics and his strong rhetoric over Russia. Referring to the latest Romneyshambles, Channel 4 News’ Felicity Spector argued that foreign policy is one of the incumbent’s strengths:

“This could be just the kind of incident that changes people’s minds. … One of the criticisms that Obama brought forward at his convention speech is that Mitt Romney’s very inexperienced at foreign policy. Obama’s had those four years in the White House, taking those 3 am calls making difficult decisions. He now feels that he’s allowed to make that kind of criticism.”

Alex Spillius of the Daily Telegraph suggested that foreign policy could prove decisive come November:

“It was meant to be an economy election but because the race is so tight small factors could make a key difference and Romney’s messing up foreign policy. I don’t think he’s got the measure of how to deliver his policy yet. Obama killed Osama and that’s a huge score.”

The panel agreed that the state of the American economy is of utmost importance for the majority of American voters. Stacy Hilliard, former vice chairman of Republicans Abroad UK stated that the Obama camp is attempting to avoid discussion of economic policy.

“I saw the Democratic convention and it sounded like a Baptist revival. They were talking about issues that people don’t talk about when they go to the polls. The fact that they don’t talk about the economy suggests that they’re afraid to. Every person who spoke talked about abortion.”

Chair of Democrats Abroad UK Robert Carolina responded with a staunch defence of Obama’s economic legacy.

“The United States’ auto-industry was saved by government intervention. That was a tremendously good investment that helped to save the economy and save Detroit, Chrysler and General Motors. Let’s not forget that half of the entire debt is attributable to over spending by George W. Bush.”

Yet this message has proved difficult to sell to the electorate in the past and the panel agreed that this is the main worry for the President.

As the evening progressed, an engaged audience opened debate on specific battles that will be fought over the next 8 weeks, including immigration, socio-cultural issues including gay marriage, rape, race and religion. However the panel came full circle and agreed that it will most likely be economic policy that will secure the next President his place in the Oval Office. 

Watch the full debate here: