The best defense is not zero offense.
I expected Governor Romney to help himself some by simply being on the debate stage with President Obama, because usually the challenger gets a boost simply by looking presidential and not drooling all over the place. I also expected Obama to play it safe and not make any big mistakes. The problem is he was too deferential. He's naturally laid back, which usually serves him well, but he let Romney run over both himself and moderator Jim Lehrer, as well as lie indiscriminately.
Romney repeated over and over the 716 billion dollar lie about Obamacare. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/oct/03/mitt-romney/romney-says-obama-cut-716-billion-medicare/
Obama completely let that go unchallenged.
Romney repeatedly ran away from his own tax plan. Obama touched on that, but not nearly enough considering the stage and just how astounding a development that was.
Obama also never once went after Romney with viable critiques about his tenure at Bain Capital or his abysmal job growth (47th in the nation) as governor of Massachusetts. Nor did he go after Romney when he said he would overturn Obamacare and replace it with what he did in Massachusetts, which is, well, the model for Obamacare.
Obama missed obvious sweet spots all night, like Romney wanting to replace Medicare with vouchers, he touched on it briefly, but not much. His explanation of it was excellent, but he needed more of it. Never once did he refer to Romney's famous secret video dismissal of 47% of the country. Nothing on Romney saying the middle class consisted of people who make up to 250 thousand a year. Nothing on Romney wanting to let the auto industry fail. Nothing on his own accomplishments, like the jobs created by the stimulus, his cutting the budget deficit every year, or the turnaround in job numbers from massive losses to hundreds of thousands created per month.
All in all, a perplexing performance. I don't think Romney was all that good, it's just that Obama played it too safe, was too passive and let too much go unchallenged.
I am not sure what the numbers will look like after this.
Romney certainly helped himself some. I suspect he will gain a few points
nationally and the media will perpetuate a close horse race, something they
love to do. However, more importantly is how will this impact the Electoral College?
I think it may help Romney some, but he had a long way to go in swing states
like Ohio and Pennsylvania and at least a few points to make up in several
other states. Ultimately, Romney has to run the table on too many swing states,
some which are nearly out of reach for him. I don't think he'll win the election,
but he certainly had a better first debate.
Obama just did himself no favors by playing it so safe. He has two weeks to rectify that before the next debate. Simply put, more offense. Go after Romney, hit him with viable critiques on his record in both the private and public sectors as well as his own policy proposals. And absolutely do not let Romney get away with all the demonstrable lies about his (meaning the president's) record and policies.
A Hillary Clinton supporter once said about Obama that "He's a poet not a fighter." This is something I tease my poet friends about, but it does get to the heart of one of Obama's problems. He can be too passive and laid back. He doesn't want to come off angry, but he needs to show some kind of passion and toughness. After all of these years, we still sometimes wonder if Barack Obama can actually fight.
Does he have it in him?
In two weeks, we'll likely find out.
President Obama, to win a debate you have to fight. Mitt Romney wants to fight, so fight him.