Obama was the winner? “On points,” as some conservative observers noted? Am I missing something? The best possible outcome for the president last night would have been some major foot-in-mouth comment by Governor Romney, an outcome unlikely but always possible. The most likely outcome was a far more energetic president, parrying attacks, throwing in some zingers, bucking up the base, and giving undecideds more reason to be unsure of what to do, and centrist women a rationale for sticking with him. The headline in that case: “Obama Comeback: Exposes Romney As Unready for Prime Time.” Or something like that.
What we have instead is the closing exchange on Benghazi. Whatever Romney’s flub and missed opportunity, the headlines from now until next Monday will center not on an Obama comeback, but instead on what Obama said, what Obama did, what Obama/Biden/Hillary/Rice/ad infinitum knew, when they knew it, why the president flew off to Las Vegas immediately after his comments in the Rose Garden — please tell me again precisely what is “offensive” about bringing this up — what those comments were, etc. etc. And on Ms. Crowley’s subsequent admission on CNN that Mr. Romney was largely correct. And news stories about how the president possibly can square this circle in a way that does not conflict with what is known, what was said by whom in what venue, and so forth. (Hint: He cannot.) And no one can believe that Mr. Romney will fail to come prepared on this topic next Monday; he will have the timeline down cold. It simply cannot be the case that the Obama campaign is happy about the aftermath of this debate.
Maybe I’m just a fool, but this second debate, I think, is a disaster for Mr. Obama. An absolute disaster. If I’m wrong, I want to hear it.
— Benjamin Zycher is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.