Obama appeared to be completely incompetent. He was clearly out matched, and I say that as a person who is eating crow. I bashed Romney for a week and predicted that Obama was going to wipe the floor with Romney. That isn't what happened at all. It was at times, really surprising how bad Romney made Obama look.
Romney energizes campaign with feisty debate performance
Mitt Romney energized his campaign for president Wednesday night, charging out of his first debate having, by most accounts from both sides of the political spectrum, dominated President Obama in a standoff for which he was evidently well-prepared.
The Republican nominee was quick on his feet, polished and feisty as he repeatedly cut off the moderator and challenged his opponent on the facts. His central argument -- that Obama's economic policies have consigned the middle class to an eroding "status quo."
Echoing the words of Vice President Biden earlier in the week, Romney said: "Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried."
Liberal pundits and supporters of the president expressed disappointment coming out of the debate, while conservatives were ecstatic.
Romney heads next to the battleground of Virginia on Thursday, while Obama heads to Wisconsin following a rally in the debate-state of Colorado. It's unclear whether Romney's performance will move the polls, but he was clearly looking for a race-shaking performance having slipped in recent weeks in several swing-state surveys.
Obama, though, fought Wednesday night to cast Romney as bad for working Americans. He slammed Romney for wanting to turn Medicare into a "voucher" system, repeal the federal health care overhaul and allegedly push a tax cut for top earners.
Each candidate strived throughout the 90-minute debate to appeal to the middle-class voters who likely will decide the election five weeks from now. While Romney accused Obama of pushing "trickle-down government," Obama accused Romney of wanting to "double down on the top-down policies" that led to the financial crisis.
The debate, which focused exclusively on domestic matters, was heavy on policy details and light on zingers. It was one of three presidential debates set for October and marked Romney's first opportunity to go toe to toe with the president.
The debate was tense at times, with the candidates standing just feet from each other and often cutting off the moderator, PBS' Jim Lehrer. Romney appeared to take a consistently more aggressive tone on stage, though the overall tenor of the debate marked a step back from what has become a bitter and nasty campaign in the closing weeks.
Each candidate came armed with studies and stats to bolster his respective position -- but the central goal was to broaden their appeal before a national audience hurting for jobs and make the case for why their plans would boost growth.
Obama argued that the issue to consider is not "where we've been" but "where we're going."
"We've begun to fight our way back," Obama said. He accused Romney of wanting to roll back regulations and implement tax cuts skewed toward the wealthy and reverse those gains.
But Romney, citing the millions who have gone on food stamps and hit the unemployment lines in the last four years, argued that "the status quo is not going to cut it."
"We know that the path we're taking is not working. It's time for a new path," Romney said.
He said Obama's push to raise taxes on top earners amounts to a tax on the very small businesses needed for a robust economic recovery.
"You raise taxes and you kill jobs," Romney said. "I don't want to kill jobs in this environment."
On taxes, though, Romney sought to wipe away the caricature that the Obama campaign has been drawing these last two years -- of Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire who's looking to make the rich richer with his tax cut plan.
Obama again argued Wednesday night that the Republican nominee is pushing a $5 trillion tax cut plan that would skew toward the wealthy.
To offset that, Obama claimed, Romney would have to either add to the deficit or raise the burden on the middle class.
"It's math, it's arithmetic," Obama said
Romney, though, insisted the 20 percent across-the-board rate cut he's pushing is not nearly as sweeping as the president describes.
"I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut," Romney said. Further, he pledged to hold to his promise that it would be deficit-neutral and not hurt the middle class.
"There'll be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that -- no tax cut that adds to the deficit," Romney said. He added: "I will not under any circumstance raise taxes on middle-income families."
Romney addressed his tax plan after saying in an interview that one way to offset the rate cut would be to cap deductions at perhaps $17,000 -- and have taxpayers choose what deductions they want to take. The details may have been meant to undercut the Obama campaign's claims that he has not been specific.
The president, though, repeatedly hammered Romney at the debate for allegedly hiding the details of his plans -- from his proposals for implementing tax reform to his plans for replacing "ObamaCare."
"At some point I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Gov. Romney is keeping all these plans to replace (the health care law) secret, because they're too good?" Obama said sarcastically.
Obama adamantly defended the health care law, saying he's warmed to the term "ObamaCare." He denied that it was a "takeover" of health care and warned against repealing it as Romney wants to do.
The debate in Denver fell against the backdrop of a sputtering economic recovery and rising U.S. debt. While Romney used these factors to argue Obama does not deserve a second term, the president again made the case that he's still cleaning up the mess from the prior administration and needs four more years to finish the job.
Romney arguably had the most to gain out of Tuesday's performance. Though competitive with Obama in national polls, he's been slipping in key battlegrounds. The debate was a chance for him to close that gap, and potentially benefit simply from being on the same stage as the president.
The two candidates debate next on Oct. 16 and for the last time on Oct. 22. The only vice presidential debate is set for Oct. 11.
Liberals 'freak out' after Obama's poor debate performance
The late Warren Zevon wrote the song “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” in 1991. After Wednesday’s presidential debate, it could be the new theme for the Obama campaign and even the liberals of MSNBC seemed to know it. Though some major media outlets attempted to limit the collateral damage.
When the Rocky Mountain debate came to an end, a black cloud descended on the liberal off-shoot of NBC. “A CNN/ORC poll of registered voters who watched the debate in Denver showed 67 percent believe Romney won the debate, while just 25 percent said Obama won,” the Hill reported.
For MSNBCers, it was a sign of The End Times. Perennial Obama Fan Club President Chris Matthews lamented the whole ordeal, whining this “wasn’t an MSNBC debate, was it? It just wasn’t.”
Matthews erupted into a vein-throbbing rant about how Obama should be watching MSNBC to learn his debate talking points. “Where was Obama tonight?! He should watch, well not just 'Hardball,' Rachel [Maddow], he should watch you, he should watch the Reverend Al [Sharpton], he should watch Lawrence [O'Donnell]. He would learn something about this debate,” he vented. Perhaps the new soundtrack for “Hardball,” will be “After The Thrill Is Gone.”
Throughout much of the media universe, the Obama faithful were distraught by the president's poor performance.
Fellow MSNBC host Ed Schultz echoed the panic and added Obama “created a problem for himself on Social Security tonight. He agrees with Mitt Romney.” “I was absolutely stunned tonight,” Schultz concluded. In fact, MSNBC’s focus group of “undecideds,” all thought Romney did well.
Throughout much of the media universe, the Obama faithful were equally distraught with Huffington Post giving the night to the GOP candidate under the headline: “ROMNEY WINS THE NIGHT.” Foul comedian and Obama Super PAC million-dollar contributor Bill Maher took to Twitter to express his frustration. “[I] can't believe I'm saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter,” he snarked. Movie maker Michael Moore joined in the distress, begging the president to do better. “Obama please be Obama! You sound like a Democrat (wimpy).”
The lefty propaganda site Talking Points Memo couldn’t even spin it in a good way. Instead, it ran the headline: “Obama Camp: Romney Won On ‘Style’” and featured a “Best ‘Zingers’” video that strongly favored Romney.
Washington Post wunderkind Ezra Klein was sarcastic. “If the Obama campaign was worried about Dems being overconfident going into the final stretch, tonight should allay those fears,” Klein commented.
Media entrepreneur and critic Jeff Jarvis asked if Obama had anyone who would “beat him up over tonight?” “Obama didn't just act professorial, as some are calling him. He acted like a prof with tenure,” Jarvis added.
Even Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, auditioning poorly for a national spot, mistakenly referred to Romney as “president” during a live interview.
Despite the math of the evening’s results, some major media outlets downplayed Romney’s big win.
New York Times analysis described the debate “like a seminar by a business consultant and a college professor,” claiming “they talked over each other without connecting their ideas to voters.” Writers Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg gave Romney the mildest of attaboys. “If Mr. Romney’s goal was to show that he could project equal stature to the president, he succeeded, perhaps offering his campaign the lift that Republicans have been seeking,” they wrote.
Liberal Nate Silver, the Times’ FiveThirtyEight blogger, tried to put a good spin on a bad evening. “Mitigating factor: not really a lot of bad Obama soundbytes. He was just flat, throughout,” he claimed. Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal was skeptical of a Romney victory. “Ouch. But is it a real sample? Hard to imagine how,” he commented in response to the results showing Romney winning 67-25.
Times columnist economist Paul Krugman first admitted Romney won, before then trying to undermine that victory. “OK, so Obama did a terrible job in the debate, and Romney did well,” he wrote. But then Krugman went on to say it should be about “substance.” “And the fact is that everything Obama said was basically true, while much of what Romney said was either outright false or so misleading as to be the moral equivalent of a lie.”
On CBS, Time Assistant Managing Editor Rana Foroohar said it all came down to taxes and questioned “whether Romney's math adds up.”
Both NBC and CNN were surprised that Obama never mentioned Romney’s 47-percent comment. NBC’s David Gregory seemed stunned that Obama didn’t use that line, complaining: “He didn’t bring up the 47 percent!” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was similarly surprised that Obama ignored “attack lines” like that one. Even the Post’s after-debate editorial took aim at Romney over that number. “One of the surprises of the evening was the number that remained unmentioned: 47 percent,” the paper wrote.
CNN’s ascot-wearing commentator Roland Martin, shockingly declared there was “no clear cut winner.” “There were moments where both were sharp with zingers & hard hitting lines,” he added. But later amended his positive viewpoint with crowd commentary. “A number of folks coming up to me at this NY debate party, stating they are Obama supporters, NOT happy with his performance,” he explained on Twitter.
Time’s Mark Halperin incredibly graded the “Denver Donnybrook” as close, giving Romney an A- and Obama a B-. This despite Time's senior political analyst claiming that Obama, “surprisingly, seemed more nervous and tentative than his challenger.”
Conservative response to the evening was pretty much universally positive. The best evidence of that came from MSNBC’s Resident RINO, Joe Scarborough of “Morning Joe.” Scarborough Tweeted: “Tonight was a big win for Mitt Romney. He dominated the debate in every way. This wasn't even close.” When even Scarborough is backing Romney, it’s a blowout.
But now that the debate is over, the liberal media fact-check machine will shift into high gear. Several outlets attempted to analyze the truthfulness of the debate. ABC news deployed a tome-like fact-checking page, complete with video and red and blue graphics.
At least this campaign finally got interesting.