On this night , the professor stayed home.
Instead, on an evening less than a fortnight's distance from All Hallows Eve, his equally-brainy, dark side alter ego appeared and delivered a debate performance scintillating enough to rekindling the tingle up Chris Matthews' legs.
It's as if "no drama" had somehow become "pure drama" Obama. This perhaps previously unseen Dark Professor flat out mopped the floor with the professional businessman resulting in a celestial-like post-debate glow that radiated long after the debate had concluded. Heck even George Will called it "immeasurably the best in American History." In any event, it left a glow that the President deliciously savored. He stayed on what had been a white hot debate floor for some thirty-minutes after Mitt and his crew had slinked off into the night.
While Mitt certainly enjoyed his moments, those moments that really counted often found Romney perched in stiffened silence. By two-thirds the way through, the GOP nominee was projecting as if cognizant of his starring role in a real-time occurrence of the dispiriting side of personal evolution that in politics, can play out in a matter of seconds: a big shot being reduced to a little shorty.
What a turnaround. But was it planned? I've heard some observers theorize that Obama's defenseless performance in Debate One was deliberate; a kind of rope-a-dope strategy actually designed to groom Romney for the brutal victimization that occurred Tuesday evening. There's certainly no denying that in their initial encounter, rebuttals by Obama to Romney's debate-long barrage of embellishments, denials, distortions and outright lies were both perplexingly sparse and agonizingly weak.
There's also no denying that as a result, Obama conceded to Romney an unfettered forum from which Mitt would lay out his campaign's easily rebuttable narrative on themes involving taxes and fiscal strategy, immigration policy and a women's right to choose. For some 67 million Americans -- many of whom had paid no real prior attention to either candidate's campaign mumbo jumbo -- that initial debate was their opportunity to hear Romney's counter to the narrative put forth about Mitt by the Obama campaign all summer; and hear it directly from the mouth of the candidate himself. As the rope-a-dope theory goes, the idea was to give Mitt all the rope Obama needs to hogtie Romney in the second debate.
According to this scenario, when during the first debate, Romney flatly denied that his tax and fiscal proposals create of a minimum $ 5 trillion hole in the budget, the absence of a strong rebuttal from Obama would encourage the Romney campaign to use the week leading to Tuesday's debate to reinforce that denial and other such false claims. As the theory goes, Obama spends that week feigning an obsession with "Big Bird" and ignoring the Romney campaign's work at locking into the minds of voters the assertions, promises, premises, claims, and denials advanced by Romney during that first debate.