Going into the first presidential debate it was Barack Obama’s game to lose, and he did, primarily because his opponent was not the tongue-tied stumble-bum we had been led to believe.
Romney came off cool, composed, and fairly glib. And while he still managed to avoid making any specific policy statements he did have the President on the defensive through most of the 90-minute bout. Apparently the Etch-A-Sketch finally got shaken because Romney did an about-face on almost every one of his positions to date, managing to assert his love of Medicare and his resolve not to raise taxes on the middle-class. Yet his math was as faulty as ever, failing to account for the revenue loss in tax reductions simply by “plugging loopholes”.
Obama was tired, often pausing awkwardly to search for words. He had no fire and apparently no stomach for going for Romney’s soft spots: his infamous statement that there is health care for the poor – ambulances and emergency rooms, and the now legendary “47% freeloaders” gaffe. Obama kept trying to invalidate Romney’s policies, but since Romney has no clearly stated policies it was difficult to find any specifics to criticize other than his faulty math and his position as one of the nation’s wealthiest individuals. A last-moment reference to Osama bin Laden seemed desperately contrived.
With two more debates to go we can only think that the Obama team will be rethinking strategy, and try to dazzle less with facts and more with aggressive punching to the very lower mid-section.