Ah, Brother Rich, but two can play at that game: It took a humiliating defeat in Iowa and a thorough drubbing in the first of the two New Hamsphire debates before Mr. Romney, pulling himself together in the second New Hampshire debate, finally turned in his own first (and only) really impressive performance.
What we are dealing with here is human beings. And, yes, it does quite often take a pop or two in the nose before certain kinds of people, even presidential candidates, come alive. George W. Bush was off-balance during his first debate with Gore but did better subsequently. Even Our Hero, the Gipper himself, sometimes needed a poke, as witness his first debate with Walter Mondale in 1984, in which, overprepared, he faltered. Reagan did better next time, of course, and then went on to win–O blessed memory!–49 of 50 states (including Massachusetts, which makes it all the more puzzling that Romney, during his 1994 debate with Teddy Kennedy, so famously insisted that he “was an independent during Reagan-Bush”).
There. I’ve placed Fred Thompson in company with the Gipper. My morning’s work is done.