Score for Romney. Both style and substance, even if it was liquid malarkey, conformed to audience expectations. But Romney was armed with his “zingers” and had Obama spending all his words reeling and explaining. Obama looked like he needed a shot or two of espresso, and perhaps he was thinking about his wedding anniversary or some other pressing concern consumed his cognitive capacity. Worse, he not only failed to call out Romney deceptions and equivocations, but appeared to be engaged in a strategy of trying to out-Republican a Republican in some twisted abstract reasoning sense that left me gobsmacked.
Romney was full of facts and figures, detailing the woes of the jobless, enumerating the ills of Obamacare, full of vigor on how he would restore fiscal health to the nation. Obama, in return, stammered, droning on in nebulous trails. Tragically, his most incisive hits were on areas where he and Romney are in agreement or extolling the gubernatorial acumen of Romney. Again, utterly astonishing how Romney rhetorical ju-jitsu was able to twist his weaknesses into pounding points over Obama — speaking eloquently on the flaws (whether substantiated or not) of Obamacare, a program that Obama heaped praise on Romney for, but yet could not frame even a decent defense of. Furthermore, Romney jiggled the etch-a-sketch and cast off the crazy conservative crowd, careening to the center.
Not a whisper about “47%” Romney disdained addressing “50K plate” donors or any hint that a Romney presidency would be a rubber stamp for a troglodyte Republican Congress intent on rolling back the country to the Gilded Age. At the start of the debate, Obama did push back against “the Romney plan”, but was quickly flummoxed at Romney rejoinders that that was not his plan (in stark contradiction to what Romney has emitted over the course of his campaign).
I swear, at times I started to think that maybe Obama is secretly wishing for one term himself as he did not seem completely present. Or maybe he thought he could phone this one in. At any rate, I started to regret the few dollars I sent the campaign last month.
The only solace that precludes me defining this a “knockout” was Romney bullying of the moderator and his lapses into “sneering plutocrat” mode while Obama was speaking. Of course, after action reports also are replete with how Obama has his “head down” while Romney was talking.
I doubt many viewers were substantially affected, though in this age of the giant global graph, it is more about the subsequent echoes and reverberations that weigh heavier.