Bewildered and lost without his teleprompter, President Obama flailed all around the debate stage last night. He was stuttering, nervous and petulant. It was like he had been called in front of the principal after goofing around for four years and blowing off all his homework.
The split screen was most devastating. Mitt Romney spoke forthrightly, with carefully studied facts and details at the ready. He looked right at the president and accused him of being miles out of his depth.
Mr. Obama? His eyes were glued to his lectern, looking guilty and angry and impatient with all the vagaries of Democracy. This debate was seriously chafing him.
What exactly was Mr. Obama’s strategy here? Did he figure with so many people unemployed in this abomination of an economy he should go for the sympathy vote? Like voters could relate to a guy who is just scared pantsless that he is about to lose his job?
In the middle of the blood-letting segment about jobs, Mr. Romney said good-naturedly: “This is fun.”
Almost pleading, Mr. Obama reached out to the moderator for a lifeline: “You may want to move onto another topic.”
When an unexpected noise went off behind him, Mr. Obama wheeled around to look as if to ask, “Time to go?”
Turns out, it was the first honest thing we have heard from Mr. Obama’s campaign: The president really was absolutely terrible on the debate stage.
Maybe the next debate will be on something other than the economy that won’t be so bad for Mr. Obama. Perhaps they could hold a debate on street organizing.
Who knew anyone on the planet could make Mitt Romney look easy, relaxed, smooth and human?
But Mr. Romney was absolutely on fire Wednesday night. He had command of countless specifics from voters and business owners from all across country.
He explained complex issues clearly, concisely and with good humor. He was not angry. But he was direct and pointed.
“I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Romney said in the most devastating understatement of the night. “I maybe need to get a new accountant.”
Like a prosecutor in court, Mr. Romney went after Mr. Obama’s record and eviscerated him about the terrible economy and Mr. Obama’s belief in “trickle down government.”
Mr. Romney also came off as genuine by looking Mr. Obama in the eye with every criticism. He also looked moderator Jim Lehrer in the eye when he told him that if he became president he would cut funding to public broadcasting, possibly eliminating his job.
Mr. Obama weakly offered Mr. Lehrer: “You’ve done a great job.”
OK, that’s one vote for Mr. Obama in the sympathy strategy. Just 55 million votes to go.
•By Charles Hurt can be reached at [email protected]