What a Debate!

I was not sure what to expect, but in the event Romney knocked it out of the park. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, October 4, 2012 — Mitt Romney was Frank Luke, Barack Obama was an observation balloon. Romney was a tie fighter, Obama was the Death Star. On Twitter, Bill Mahr said Obama looked like he needed his teleprompter. I think the teleprompter showed and Obama was missing in action.

Afterwards, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told Greta van Sustern that Romney’s performance was the finest he had ever seen.

I expected Romney to do well; he exceeded my expectations. Based on his 2008 performances, I expected Obama to be at least credible; he was not.

It started right from the first question. Asked for his position on taxes, Obama started by trying to define what Romney’s position was. He mentioned a $5 trillion tax cut. Romney refused to let Obama define him. After the third time Obama mentioned it, Romney told him firmly that he was entitled to his own car and his own house but not his own facts.

When you’re running campaign ads you can try that sort of thing. In fact, Democrats have been specializing in it lately: They seek to tear down their opponent while saying nothing about themselves. When you’re standing face-to-face with your opponent on the stage, however, that doesn’t cut it. When you try to hit your opponent for a lack of specificity yet provide no specifics of your own, it shows.

The empty suit lying on the empty chair was on full display. Maybe Obama shouldn’t have played hooky on Monday and skipped out on his luxury accommodations in Las Vegas to show up at a campaign office.

By contrast, the real Romney — not the straw man of the Democrat attack ads — was fully present. He demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of the economy and what makes it work. He showed expertise in areas I didn’t know he had expertise. He showed several times that Obama simply didn’t know what he was talking about, as when he debunked the notion that companies got tax credits for shipping jobs to China. He could also have mentioned that Government Motors is shipping jobs outside the country but there was only a limited amount of time and so many targets.

Time was limited for Romney, not only because of the debate format but also because Obama got almost five minutes more time than Romney. Once or twice when Obama looked stuck, Lehrer have him his cues. None of that helped. The campaign sound-bite talking points just didn’t cut it. Lehrer tried to shut Romney down a couple of times, but Romney wouldn’t be cowed. Early on, Romney had to remind him of the debate rules. To his credit, Lehrer gave up keeping strict time and gave the candidates room to spar. His goal, he said, was to draw clear distinctions between the candidates. From that perspective, Lehrer did an admirable job.

So much for style. On substance Romney did well, too. He hit the major legislative achievements of the last four years: Dodd-Frank and Obamacare, both multi-thousand-page bills with unimaginable consequences. His phrase “trickle-down government” will stick. And who would have thought Romney was a 10th Amendment guy? Obama brought up the issue of Romneycare in Massachusetts to justify the national health care law and Romney took full advantage to show how it was not only different but also how the states are the proper places for such experimentation. Further, he used it to illustrate how he can work with both sides. We are reminded that the only significant bills passed by the Democrats in the last four years were passed in the 111th Congress and only with only Democrat votes.

America has seen the real Mitt Romney and from the reaction so far, they like what they see. Is he the perfect liberty candidate? No, but he just might be the perfect candidate for the time and the one best positioned to right the ship of state. I can’t wait to see what Paul Ryan will do to Joe Biden next week.

After the debate, campaign manager David Plouffe said their side doesn’t believe in “game changers.”

Believe, David. Believe in America.

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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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