I won’t recap the entire 90-minute curb-stomping Mitt Romney put on President Obama in last night’s debate; plenty of other people have already done that (see Jay Nordlinger, Andrew Malcolm, Byron York, Our Still Future Ambassador to Vanuatu, Pete da Tech Guy, and Ace). I do have a few quick thoughts, though.
1) Mitt Romney will never be the candidate, nor the president, I want him to be. He’s going to be a lot more like George W. Bush than Ronald Reagan (or even than George H.W. Bush). Worst case, he’ll be a lot like Nixon, with less shiftiness and no enemies list. When I adjusted my expectations — stopped looking for him to talk about taxes from a conservative POV, for instance — his performance looked a lot better.
2) I expect progressives and the lapdog media will grab a few convenient scapegoats on whom to blame the President’s performance. That won’t fly. The President was petulant and got rattled more easily than a door handle during a taping of Ghost Adventures. The only person you can blame for the frowns, smirks, sighs, and head-shakes is Barack Obama. Remember George H.W. Bush’s watch glance. Only one person is responsible for how you look once you hit the big stage.
3) The President laid two or three huge whoppers on us: the old canard about being able to keep your doctor and health insurance plan if you like it, that he cut trillions from the budget, and that the IPAB (AKA: The Death Panel) doesn’t have the power to deny care. I’m sure there were a couple others, but those were the ones that jumped out at me. The lapdog media probably won’t jump on them all that hard, but the Romney campaign has good video editors and at least $100 million to spend on campaign ads between now and Election Day.
4) Mitt Romney has better be ready for an entirely different debate on October 16th. Not only should be expect the President to be more aggressive and snarky, he’s going to have to knock the President down in a format in which he is far more comfortable — the town hall debate in a very blue state. When the President can work a crowd, and feed off the reactions he gets, he is far more energized and engaging than when he’s standing on a stage sans teleprompter. Romney should not forget that working a crowd is the only professional job experience Barack Obama really has. He’s good at it.
5) A lot of the catchphrases that have gotten a lot of use thus far in the campaign barely made an appearance last night: “you didn’t build that”, “47 percent”, “corpsemen”, “if you like your plan, you can keep it”, “economic patriotism”.
6) A room full of bonobos hopped up on bath salts would have been more dignified than the post-debate ruckus kicked up by the despairing commentators on MS-NBC. It was as if Chris Matthews’ leg-tingle achieved sentience and ran around the studio like an Alien face-hugger.
7) I’m sure plenty of people will regard Jim Lehrer, last night’s moderator, as a failure. I think he did just fine. I liked the free-flow of the debate and I don’t see where any one candidate gained a clear advantage in time. Lehrer changed the topics when necessary and enforces the rough time limits, which is about all a moderator should do. I want to see all the debates done like last night’s was.
Category: The 2012 Horse Race