I heard it said more than once in the days leading up to last night’s big presidential showdown in Denver that these debates almost never prove to be game changers. Well, count last night as one of those rare times. I have never taken the polling too seriously and so I’ve never really worried that Romney’s campaign was a “lost cause.” But I do feel that even though the campaign has been going on for more than a year that Wednesday’s debate was a chance for Mitt Romney to make a good first impression on voters who have not been paying much attention until now. Well, Romney didn’t just make a good first impression, he made an awesome first impression!
From the very beginning Romney was looking good and sounding in charge. Obama came into the debate with the luxury of having Jim Lehrer of PBS as his moderator and designated wingman. It was Lehrer’s job to run interference as necessary for Obama and to act as a sort of surrogate teleprompter. We know this because Lehrer has been at this for many elections now. We know this because Lehrer repeatedly tried to interrupt Romney and at other times literally prompted Obama’s answers. But a funny thing happened on the way to the media-manufactured mugging. Romney eagerly and skilfully took them both on – and won!
Romney’s performance was so well-executed that there was virtually nothing that even his sharpest critics could point to as a “gaffe” or a fumble. Obama’s cheering section at MSNBC was reduced to howling at Obama’s poor performance and throwing Jim Lehrer under the bus, a clear indication of what was expected of him by Obama’s partisans.
Other observers were irritated by Obama’s unwillingness to fight. Chris Matthews was nearly apoplectic, wondering aloud why Obama didn’t use Romney’s comments regarding “the 47%” among other overhyped talking points. The answer to that specific question is that while the Kool-aid Brigade has worked overtime trying to manufacture “outrage” over the 47% of Americans that Romney supposedly insulted and dismissed, the fact of the matter is that an even larger percentage of the population more or less agree with what Romney said. And many others simply don’t care about it one way or another.
The reason Obama didn’t use it was because he knew that it simply wasn’t much of a weapon. So give Obama credit for at least having a better grasp of reality than the clowns at MSNBC. (Remember, too, that Obama has never even sat down for an interview with his leg-humping fanboy Chris Matthews, who doesn’t have a big enough audience to be useful).
No, this wasn’t a case of Obama not putting up a fight. This was a case of Obama’s attempts to fight being overwhelmed by a superior fighter. Obama tried to fight but was simply outmatched. Romney dominated the debate in a way that made both Obama and his inside man, Jim Lehrer, look weak and disoriented. Lehrer wasn’t able to deliver the goods because Romney had clearly decided going in that he wasn’t going to be railroaded by a moderator.
The truth is that it’s a fantasy of the Democrats that Obama is a skilled debater. Everyone knows that Obama can deliver a good speech just as long as he has TOTUS riding shotgun. But whenever Obama goes off the prompter bad things happen. Even Obama’s million-dollar supporter Bill Maher, who knows a thing or two about delivering punchlines on a stage and who was honest enough to praise Clint Eastwood’s empty chair monologue, was shocked at Obama’s lack of effectiveness. Maher tweeted that apparently Obama really does need a teleprompter to excel. And that was merely one of countless brutal critiques of Obama delivered by his fans.
But there’s an even more important point to make about last night’s debate. THIS was supposed to be THE debate in which Obama would hurt Romney. This was the domestic policy debate that included ObamaCare, which once upon a time was supposed to be Romney’s great weakness. Remember that? Remember when nominating Romney would take ObamaCare off the table because of “RomneyCare?” Well tonight was supposed to be THAT night…and Romney decimated Obama. Yes, there will be other debates but this was the big one. This was the one Obama really needed to win.
All of the time and money and (in the case of the MSM) credibility that has been squandered in an all-out attempt to destroy Romney has now been reduced to ashes. Prior to the debate the media, including FOX, had been patting Obama on the back for successfully and negatively defining Romney. But on Wednesday night Romney introduced himself to the nation and shaped his own identity in a way that Obama won’t be able to touch going forward. Once the two candidates were finally put on the same stage, it was Romney who looked and sounded presidential, not Obama. Thanks to this debate, Obama now has an image problem to go along with his dismal record in office. Romney looked like a man ready – indeed eager – to lead the nation. Obama looked like a guy who was more or less ready to call it a day and head for the nearest golf course. James Carville mentioned that Obama didn’t even look like he wanted to be there. Happy 20th wedding anniversary, Mr. President!
And for the record, as someone who was a Romney supporter from the very beginning I don’t mind stating that I feel totally vindicated in giving that support to him, even in the face of relentless attacks by partisans of other GOP candidates who have never stopped beating the drums of defeatism with regards to Romney. Every little faux outrage or overhyped “gaffe” accusation from the Establishment Media was used as an excuse by some Conservatives to bash Romney rather than bash Obama. It was disgraceful. And so it is very satisfying to see some of those chicken-little critics basking in Romney’s triumph along with the rest of us. That’s how much of a bad-ass Mitt Romney was on Wednesday night. He energized the GOP, from top to bottom, while delivering a heavy blow to the Democrats, leaving them stunned and dismayed. And the overnight polling backs up that assertion. Mitt Romney delivered a knockout.