Mitt Romney politely cleaned Barack Obama’s clock Wednesday night in the first presidential debate. A lethargic and at times tired looking President Obama was out-hustled, out-facted, out-energized, and out-informed by the former governor from Massachusetts.
Romney offered something completely unlike his convention speech. He focused on strong economic issues. He developed his philosophy of limited government. He convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in fact a pro-growth tax reformer who wants to lower the rate and broaden the base in a revenue-neutral fashion that will actually create jobs and spur the economy.
This is the first time I have been totally convinced of Romney’s tax-reform principles.
Elsewhere in the debate, Romney had to correct Obama on a number of issues, including oil tax breaks, job-training programs in the federal government, health-care issues, and even on how Obamacare works. Romney’s knowledge base was broad and deep, much broader and deeper than what Obama showed Wednesday night.
At times, Obama looked petulant, perhaps because he knew he was beat and knew he was outhustled and not in command of the facts. What’s more is that Romney’s demeanor was calm but insistent. You could see a man who is for limited government and private enterprise and who wants to make sure that people understand his commitment to those key principles. He never wavered. On the other side of the stage, you could see an Obama who is committed to big government all the way.
Also, after this debate, we have no new knowledge of what President Obama would do if elected to a second term. We know he opposes everything Romney supports, but we have no new sense of what he actually believes in. That’s because his not-so-hidden agenda is to spend more on government programs, keep pouring money into the losing ventures of green energy, and raise taxes in order to do so.
For almost every question, President Obama had a government solution. For almost every question, Mitt Romney had a private-sector solution. My hunch, though he won’t say it, is that a reelected Obama will not only run the table on more big-government spending, and not only try to raise taxes on upper-end successful earners, but will move toward a value-added tax. An across-the-board, European-style tax would be the only way to finance President Obama’s government-spending dreams.
Finally, as Romney went toe-to-toe with Obama, he looked presidential every step of the way. He kept an even demeanor, and showed himself as a man who was in control. It was a different Romney than I saw at the convention. It was much more of the Mitt Romney that I have come to know through many interviews and personal conversations throughout the years.
He is indeed the leader of the Republican party. And he will, in fact, with his first presidential-debate performance, attract many independent voters. My hunch is that some Democrats who yearn for solutions to our nation’s problems that will keep us out of bankruptcy and grow the economy will move into Romney’s camp.
And, by the way, Romney time and again indicated his willingness for bipartisan solutions, particularly on tax reform, but also in rewriting the health-care laws. At one point Romney said there were multiple ways he wanted to achieve tax reform, and that he would be happy to take suggestions from the other side of the aisle. Whereas, the making of Obama’s health-care law was an all-Democratic event, and sought no Republican suggestions.
In sum, a huge victory for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
– Larry Kudlow, NRO’s economics editor, is host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report and author of the daily web log, Kudlow’s Money Politic$.