So the first debate is over, and universal response is that Mitt Romney won the debate. I watched, and I do believe that Romney did indeed “win” the debate. I also believe that Obama “lost” that debate as much as Romney won it.
Romney was the aggressor throughout the night. To use a boxing analogy Romney pursued the President throughout the night, cutting off the ring and getting off first most of the night. What happened to the President?
I think the President was thrown off stride early by the Romney assertions, totally false, that his tax plan would not cost $5 trillion, would not give additional tax benefit to the upper brackets, and was revenue neutral. Obama seemed befuddled, and unable to strike back at the clearly false assertions. Romney’s tax position seems to be that his plan is what he says it is, and you will just have to wait until after the election to get the details.
Romney took it to the President on health care, making assertions that again were totally false. Romney’s assertion that his “plan” covered those with pre-existing conditions has already been walked back by his own campaign after Romney made the same claim a few weeks back. The truth is that he has no plan for people with pre-existing conditions, claiming that the market will take care of it. Romney continually calls for repeal of ObamaCare, but NEVER makes suggestions for what will come in its place. He seemed to me to indicate that he favored a return to the pre-reform system, which was a disaster for the country. Romney has also walked back the Paul Ryan plans on Medicare, assuring all that there will be no change, and no savings, from any Romney Medicare changes. That must be shocking news to the Republican base.
The Romney plan on the budget, as explained last night, would lower the deficit by cutting PBS. He essentially indicated that all of the spending cuts he has advocated for by saying he would sign the House Republican budget were off the table. He even claimed that he would not be cutting education spending. Totally false.
So in the final analysis President Obama will need to raise his game, and do so substantially. As folks look at what impact this will have they may look at national polls, but I think the swing state polls is where our gaze should go. Florida and Virginia are two states where polling had showed virtual ties, and the strong Romney showing could tip them, for the time, into the Romney column. I think the campaign narrative, overnight, has changed, putting Romney right back in a game he was on the verge of losing. The Obama campaign, if they lose this thing, will need to look in the mirror and admit that they had the wrong strategy for this debate. Mike Murphy called it the “Sandman” strategy: “put em to sleep, agree, and run out the clock”. Sorry Team Obama, wrong strategy. Romney was better prepared, crisper in presentation, not afraid to tell a whopper or two, and the aggressor throughout. Team Romney got it right, and Team Obama made a bad error. They should begin preparations for the second debate by firing John Kerry as the Romney stand in.