The Denver Knockout
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter.”
Guess who said that?
Chuck Todd: “Very important night for Mitt Romney. And he rose to the challenge.” Later in the evening, Todd reported, “[The Obama campaign] knows they lost tonight.”
Rachel Maddow began by saying, “I don’t know who won this debate.”
Chris Matthews was morose: “I don’t know what he was doing out there. . . . He had his head down.”
Go watch the video of the meltdown. It’s worth it. The transcript doesn’t capture just how epic:
“Where was Obama tonight? He should watch — well, not just Hardball, Rachel, he should watch you, he should watch the Reverend Al [Sharpton], he should watch Lawrence. He would learn something about this debate. There’s a hot debate going on in this country. You know where it’s been held? Here on this network is where we’re having the debate,” Matthews said. “We have our knives out,” Matthews said, admitting his network is trying their best to defend Obama and his policies.
“We go after the people and the facts. What was he doing tonight? He went in their disarmed.” “He was like, ‘Oh an hour and half? I think I can get through this thing. And I don’t even look at this guy.’ Whereas Romney — I love the split-screen — staring at Obama, addressing him like prey. He did it just right. ‘I’m coming at an incumbent. I got to beat him. You’ve got to beat the champ and I’m going to beat him tonight. And I don’t care what this guy, the moderator, whatever he thinks he is because I’m going to ignore him,’” Matthews said.
“What was Romney doing?” Matthews asked. “He was winning.”
Ed Schultz, MSNBC: “I was disappointed in the President tonight….He was off his game. I was stunned.”
Michael Moore: “This is what happens when you pick John Kerry as your debate coach. . . . What’s that silence I hear? No one throwing a party? No one saying this election is a slam dunk for Obama? What happened to the victory lap?”
Van Jones: “Up until tonight, we were told Romney was Thurston Howell… Tonight, he was presidential.”
Larry Sabato: “Probably Romney’s best debate ever. Maybe Obama’s worst. I lost count of # of opportunities Obama missed. . . . This debate may build audience for other 3. Voters will want to see if Obama can stage comeback. . . . Mr. President, cancel all your golf games. You did miserably tonight.”
Wolf Blitzer: “This was a pretty good night for Mitt Romney. He clearly held his own. We didn’t hear the attack lines from President Obama that we were expecting . . .”
John King: “A lot of liberals complaining about Obama’s performance. He was rusty. He hasn’t done this for four years. We didn’t hear about Bain Capital, we didn’t hear about the forty-seven percent.”
Anderson Cooper: “Critics of the president often say he can be professorial, I imagine they’ll be saying that tonight.”
Terry Moran: “Obama’s passivity in this debate, his lack of oomph and clarity, plays into the Romney narrative: Nice guy; can’t lead. Big W for GOP.”
Nicholas Kristof: “Romney is relaxed and empathetic, while Obama comes across as a constipated professor. C’mon, Mr. President!”
David Corn: “Romney looks like he’s having a good time. Obama does not.”
Josh Greeman of the New York Daily News: “Possible upside: Some people might feel a little sorry for Obama?”
Michael Crowley of Time magazine: “Sensing weakness, Sasha and Malia just hounded dad into doubling their allowances.”
Two other points that become clearer the morning after: Over four to eight years, President Obama grew quite dependent upon audience reaction to feed his energy during appearances like this. The audience followed Jim Lehrer’s instructions and there was no applause other than the introduction, little or no laughter. Without it, his energy flagged, and his mood seemed to darken; his irritation with Romney and occasionally Lehrer (“I had five seconds left, before you interrupted me”) couldn’t be concealed.
Secondly, it didn’t seem like Obama was ready to have his record challenged this way; he apparently thinks that he’s done as good a job as anyone could expect, and seems to think that most Americans feel the same way. He defended his record with a lot of the familiar buzzwords — “investments” “balanced approach” “class sizes” — and Romney swatted most of them away, like when he pointed out that the $90 billion spent on “green jobs” could have been used to hire 2 million more teachers.
At one point, Obama said, “It means that the teacher that I met in Las Vegas, a wonderful young lady, who describes to me — she’s got 42 kids in her class. The first two weeks she’s got them, some of them sitting on the floor until finally they get reassigned. They’re using text books that are 10 years old.” He seemed to forget he was the incumbent, and that a lot of Americans heard that and wondered, “Why are you telling us how bad things are in our schools, sir? Why haven’t you done something about that, Mr. President?”