Rarely has there been such unanimity of opinion in the political arena. Everybody – the voters, the pundits, liberal and conservative politicians – agreed that GOP challenger Mitt Romney won the first of three debates against President Obama this week. In fact, he cleaned the president’s clock.
Romney won partly by his own performance – he was poised, assured, coolly in command of the facts – and partly because of Obama’s poor showing. He seemed bored or distracted, unsure of what to say when any of his platitudes were challenged. Some said he was unprepared because an adoring press had led him to believe he was invincible. Some said his poor record in the first term was finally catching up with him.
Few observers said the debate represented a game-changer for Romney, but it re-energized his base and seemed to breathe new life into his campaign even as it somewhat demoralized the Democrats. Some did predict the Republican challenger would get a one- or two-point bump in the polls, almost guaranteeing that the race would be neck-and-neck right down to the wire.
The country could go in one of two radically different directions after the November elections. The debate this week showed the contrast. A handful of still-undecided voters who were watching will make all the difference.
There will be two more debates, one on foreign policy and one that will cover both foreign and domestic policy. Few think Obama will be as poorly prepared for those.