The debate, the debacle and the disaster

Thu, Oct 4, 2012


John Elway, who appeared on stage at a Mitt Romney rally earlier this week, knows how to pick a winner.

He bet the Broncos season on a sore-armed, stiff-necked 36-year-old quarterback, who looked as if he might take the donkeys all the way on Sunday afternoon. He risked infuriating Democratic-leaning Bronco fans with his public embrace of Romney, who then looked like Republican roadkill.

Goodbye, Tim Tebow. And, maybe, goodbye to President Obama, thanks to the Disaster in Denver.

Prior to the debate, Obama looked invincible. He had a comfortable lead in the polls, he was firmly in command of the swing states, and he seemed well on his way to a second term. The presidency was his to lose, and the debate seemed like a nothingburger event.

What could go wrong? The President had always been articulate and forceful in such venues, quick-witted and unflappable. Remember the debates with McCain? Obama had command presence – McCain seemed old and confused.

It was all on the line for Romney. A tie would have been a loss. He had to hit home runs – and Obama had only to show up and act presidential.

Romney hit it out of the park. He was forceful, incisive, energetic, and utterly in control. He seemed every inch the CEO, the firm, knowledgeable leader that the country wants and needs. It was a great performance, but it would have been wasted had Obama been on his game.

The President seemed callow and confused, unable to counter Romney’s crisp factoids with his own zingers. When Romney noted that he’d gotten his Massachusetts health care plan through a state legislature that was 87 percent Democratic, and congratulated himself for his bipartisan skills, Obama was left flatfooted. He could have noted that Romney was just carrying out the longstanding Democratic agenda, and even remarked acidly that Massachusetts would have had no such plan had the legislature been 87 percent Republican – but he said nothing.

Obama’s body language conveyed hesitancy and irresolution. He grimaced, stared down at the podium, stumbled over his lines, and delivered his talking points in a passionless monotone. He gave the impression that he’d rather be somewhere else.  The only thing missing was a George H.W. Bush surreptitious glance at the wristwatch.

And wotthehell – where did this new Mitt Romney come from? Gone was the mechanical man, the automaton mouthing the platitudes of the extreme right. Last night’s Romney was Reagan reborn, with a touch of Harry Truman. He seemed sensible and moderate, not some greedy, tax-avoiding, Koch brothers-loving, job-destroying centimillionaire who wants to outsource America to China.

If, as seems likely, Romney gets a three point bump in the polls, that’s a game changer. Dispirited donors and volunteers will be re-energized, the Obama campaign will be in disarray, and Romney will have a clear path to victory.

At best, Obama turned an easy victory into a nailbiter. At worst, he threw away the presidency.

Maybe he just wanted to make the race interesting.  Maybe he was looking at it as a pickup basketball game, generously spotting his older opponent a couple of baskets so that he wouldn’t be utterly humiliated. Or does he have another job lined up, one that pays a lot better?

CEO of Bain Capital, maybe?



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