What we saw tonight is what happens when a sitting president — who for four years has recoiled from even respectful debate with Congressional leadership — tries to defend his record against an experienced and respectful challenger. In my experience, the incumbent president in the first debate always seems weaker versus the new opponent — the “emperor has no clothes” phenomenon seems to take effect. Yet, tonight, President Obama was incredibly strong in his defense of his time in office. To be clear, Obama had no stumbles, no gaffes, no errors — in fact, he credibly and sensibly explained his policies of the past four years. Don’t blame the president — his policies just haven’t worked.
The problem for President Obama and his team is that Governor Romney was more than just his “on the stage, fellow nominee equal.” Instead, Romney delivered the best performance of his political career. He was clear, specific, and forceful — both in defense of his record and in explaining his plans for the future and his middle-class jobs plan. He was able to get specifics out about Medicare (and the $716 billion robbed from it by Obamacare), about his tax-reform plan, about why the exploding debt is a “moral issue,” and about his plans for 12 million new jobs. Romney was incredibly comfortable at all points, and, with clear declarative, short sentences, he explained in a friendly manner why he would do a better job.
That’s the story if you watched the whole episode. However, I think that the governor won the debate in the first 20 minutes when he talked about how he is used to people passing blame because he has “five sons,” so instead of rhetoric, he wants to see the “evidence.” Recall that President Obama said on 60 Minutes a few days ago that he was only responsible for 10 percent of the deficit facing his administration. So Governor Romney provided “evidence” of what is wrong, and how he will fix it.
As Vice President Biden might say . . . this debate “literally” resets the election.
— Brian Baker is the president of Ending Spending.