New England editorial roundup

By The Associated Press

The Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph, Oct. 5, 2012

It's difficult to imagine events going any better for Mitt Romney during Wednesday's presidential debate. He was passionate, well-schooled with facts and chock full of pithy rhetoric — three important attributes missing from President Barack Obama's performance.

The conventional wisdom heading into the debate was that Romney needed to lay out his economic plan in a way that the American people could grasp. He did that better than he has ever done by stressing he would not raise taxes on middle class Americans and would lower taxes on small businesses. Increased revenues would come from growing the economy and creating new jobs. To solve the nation's economic woes, he said he would "rely on the brilliance of our people not the federal government."

From his opening remarks, the president appeared out of place. Perhaps he was coached to act relaxed and well-measured. Contrasted against Romney's exuberance, Obama seemed at times uninterested and challenged to defend his record and, even worse, offer some semblance of a vision for the future. Indeed, his biggest mistake was not offering much evidence that he has a plan for moving forward.

It's pretty bad when Obama's top-of-the-line spin doctors had no choice but to admit to a national audience in the moments after the debate that the president performance was inferior. "Distracted" was the description most frequently used.

The president gave Romney a free ride on issues he could have and should have fought back on with more clarity and vigor, such as Obamacare, Medicare and the plight of the middle class.

In each instance, the president allowed Romney to recast his policies in docile tones of middle of the road muddle.

With miniscule challenge, the former Massachusetts governor was able to transform his liberal-minded health care reform plan into a monument of bipartisan cooperation.

The president failed to call out the true ramifications of a Medicare voucher system pushed by Romney and could have done much better assailing the questionable outcomes of the privatized "Medicare Advantage" program as a solution for holding down medical costs.

Strangest of all, Obama allowed Romney to cast himself as an empathetic fighter for middle class Americans without ever bringing up the "47 percent" question.

During the Republican primary debates, Romney was frequently castigated for his propensity for flip-flopping — a reputation reinforced by the March comments of a high-level campaign official: "Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

That was exactly Romney's mission Wednesday. Hampered by a sputtering campaign and trending downward in some key swing states, he urgently needed a do-over. To his credit, Romney seized the moment by methodically moving through a hit list of issues and tweaking his positions in an effort to transform public perception of his campaign.

The polls will soon tell us how much Romney's show of force resonates with potential voters. However, it would be surprising if he doesn't get a bump in popularity. Whether it will be enough to win him the presidency depends on how much people take to the latest version. Still, his chances are a lot better now than they were.

The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester (Mass.), Oct. 3, 2012

Americans are going to the doctor less, newly released census data show.

In 2010, adults ages 18 to 64 made an average of 3.9 visits to doctors, nurses or other medical providers. In 2001, the figure was 4.8. So in almost a decade, the average person made roughly one fewer visit to a doctor's office per year.

If statistics were symptoms, this one would be hard to diagnose precisely.

Cost is undoubtedly the leading underlying cause, aggravated by the recession, job losses, and large numbers of uninsured people outside Massachusetts. Hefty co-payments likely discourage many patients, too. Other possible explanations include: people in the 18-to-64 age group exercising more and eating better, health care providers doing more phone and email consultations, doctors and patients getting more things accomplished per office visit, and potential patients allaying some health worries or getting some answers online.

The data merit a closer look by health-care administrators and providers.

For the rest of us, the data might nudge people to count up how many times they've been to a doctor in the last 12 months, to see how they compare.

Of course, there really aren't bragging rights in beating the national average if you've stayed away because you've "forgotten" to schedule the annual physical.

When was the last time a stethoscope was pressed to your chest and a little hammer hit against your knee? Getting a regular checkup isn't just a prime opportunity to catch a problem early. It lets us check on our important health numbers — blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, fasting blood sugar, etc. — so that, with any luck, we can keep the number of other medical visits per year nice and low.

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