Romney cleans Obama’s clock – in the nick of time

Not since Lazarus of Bethany was raised from the grave has anyone performed an act of resuscitation as generous and staggering as that performed by Obama on Romney tonight.

Romney was recently shown lacerating the “47% of the country” who are “victims” who pay no income taxes. Since the foundation of the Republic US politicians have made careers (and misery) out of attacking and scapegoating minorities. But when the minority of the country you attack is literally 47% of it – including many Republicans – well, thanks for playing, but you are done.

Until Obama’s woeful debate performance breathed new life into him, Romney was close to done.
Capitalizing on Obama’s ‘absence’ the former Governor of Massachusetts delivered a performance I didn’t appreciate he had in him. Now everyone does. This race is back on.

In terms of arguments Romney won every round for me. Even the open goals her offered the President –e.g. his fanciful promises about more tax cuts not increasing the deficit – were badly fumbled by Obama to the extent that the President was hurt every time either man spoke tonight.

Romney addressed him verbally and physically as though Obama was a confused child. Obama responded by sounding puzzled and frustrated. Brutal.

Sure Romney was good; great in fact. But Obama was staggeringly awful.. How did Mitt do it?
Against the backdrop of a complicated, stalled economy, a broken, chaotic Congressional culture, and an idealistic young President who’s tried his best but not delivered much of the post-partisan America he promised, Romney walked in tonight and took charge. In charge of the debate, in charge of the terms of the exchange, in charge even even of the bumbling moderator. (Awful moderation by the way.)

At a time when Americans just want someone to take this all on and sort it out, Romney stepped up.

President Obama was walloped in tonight’s opening exchange, his vagueness obliterated by Romney’s fluid and assertive delivery of specific points. For the next ten minutes, the President appeared shocked and almost impressed by his opponent.
Remember, Romney’s narrative had almost been ruined by his Republican Primary opponents’ brutal attacks on his Bain Capital record, prior to this Presidential race even starting. The President’s team has brilliantly milked that caricature of Romney ever since so why didn’t Obama mention it tonight? Baffling.

As Bill Clinton pointed out this week, the 47% Romney dismissed are individuals whose overall tax contributions frequently amount to a greater total percentage of their incomes than does the percentage of Romney’s overall income that’s paid in tax! To suggest the 47% are the takers was an unpalatable insult that confirmed an impression of Romney as cold aloof and arrogant. That self-sabotaging speech had, I thought, decided the election before last night’s debate yet Obama made not one mention of the 47%. What was that about?

Aside from Romney’s impressive grasp of detail and debating skills, I was more stuck by Obama’s non-appearance. Is the man exhausted? Even his end note – something about “I know I’m not perfect…” Nothing you’re proud of? Nothing you’re getting ready to do next? Terrible.

Many commentators are this evening suggesting that debates don’t change elections. Perhaps. But they do change the media narrative and this one is about to change, at least for a while, in Romney’s favor.

Strategic Communications Consultant, located in Washington, D.C.