Try not to get too giddy, Romney people.
Instant polling data has been strangely sparse on the internet for some reason. We don't know what impact last night's debate had on the numbers of the respective candidates, and we probably won't for at least a day or too. But nobody seems to challenge the premise that the Republican candidate won last night's debate, and won big. "President Xanex," one disgruntled supporter called Mr. Obama. I frankly didn't think his performance was nearly as bad as many of his supporters did, actually. It's just that he was forced to actually defend a pretty miserable record, and couldn't get away with misrepresenting Romney's positions with Romney standing right beside him.
Take that away, and there isn't much left of the argument for re-electing Barack Obama.
Yes, the Republican nominee cleaned the President's clock last night. "Mitt Romney came with a chainsaw," said Democratic consultant James Carville. Michael Goodwin of the New York Post called the debate "a game changer." A CBS correspondent made a point after the debate of mentioning that there had been no emails from the White House or the DNC or the president's campaign even bothering to claim that Mr. Obama had won the debate. When the spinners see no point in trying to spin, that says something.
What did Romney do to achieve the victory the liberal media so little expected? Essemtially what his handlers said he would. He repeatedly and firmly confronted the President's half-truths and distortions of his positions, and set the record straight in terms that left no doubt that the falsehoods Mr. Obama kept repeating were exactly that. He made the president's record the issue, and not the manufactured straw man with a sign around his neck reading "Romney" that the Democrats have been shooting their arrows at throughout the campaign.
Not that the president let that stop him. He just kept repeating the same, tired charges even after Romney pointed out that no, that was not his position.Goodwin puts it well:
President Obama had his moments, especially his closing argument. But overall, he looked small and frequently uncertain of his own points. He distorted Romney’s plans in an effort to avoid debating them, a sign he can’t handle the truth. At other times, he waded into the weeds in ways that only wonks could appreciate...
Romney, by contrast, was fresh and determined to press the economic argument that remains his strength and Obama’s weakness. In a nutshell, he put the difference between them as his favoring jobs and growth, while Obama favors food stamps and redistribution.
He was at his best explaining his plans on tax reform, job creation and cutting the deficit and comparing them to the president’s poor record that has left 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed.
Romney, too, had a strong closing argument, and effectively stole one of Obama’s core 2008 pledges: to unite the country. Romney promised that he would work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to get the country working again. It was a slick move that implicitly pointed up one of Obama’s admitted failures.
Most important, Romney filled the screen with a presidential presence. I confess to being surprised that he brought his A game to the biggest night of his political life. He was a man with a plan, and had an impressive command of his facts.
Liberal columnist Joe Klein called last night's debacle "one of the most inept performances by a president." Charles Hurt of the Washington Times said that Mr. Obama was "a president out of his depth"who "made Jimmy Carter look good." Leftie Andrew Sullivan called the president's performance "a disaster." And you're not going to believe the excuse Al Gore gave for POTUS's performance:
CBS- despite providing a liberal economist to explain why Romney's plans wouldn't work (with no rebuttal, of course, from a conservative) and various talking heads who made sure that all the points the president didn't make that they thought he should have managed to get made anyway- had a focus group of undecideds which tells a story which should make the Romney people smile Not only did 56% of the group say that Romney won the debate, but while only 30% of them said that they thought he cared about the middle class before the debate, 63% thought so afterward.
It's too soon to tell how good the news is for Romney. Historically "bounces" from debates usually don't last. But I suspect that the American people- having been told over and over by the Democrats and the media that Romney was a verbally inept robot who didn't care about anything but money- are going to be a little more reluctant to believe that lie in the future, having had a chance to judge for themselves.
But don't get too cocky. As Sarah Palin pointed out last night, the Democrats will come after Mitt Romney with a fury and a ferocity nearly beyond imagining from here on out. When it comes to innuendo and distortion of the Romney record and positions, you ain't seen nothing yet.
When the president and the governor meet again on October 22, look for Mr. Obama to slash and burn. Last night's refreshingly civil debate won't repeat itself. The Democrats won't let it- because they can't afford to have President Obama forced to defend his record.
Last night is a perfect example of what happens when he's forced to.
Real Clear Politics