This was a really poor choice by Mr. Obama and his campaign for two reasons. First, he’s not ahead by nearly that much in the presidential race. He doesn’t have a 10-point lead; he’s up by one or two. Second, as with the prevent defense in the NFL, Obama’s strategy allowed Mr. Romney to make slow steady progress in arguing his case against Obama.
The president said at the end that this was a “terrific debate” but he may have been the only one in the arena who believed that it was, at least for him. His weary cadence throughout the night was a sad contrast with Romney’s sunny intensity and articulate flow of figures and facts, even if some of the facts were questionable.
Obama doesn’t share a stage well. His gift is in soaring inspirational oratory. There may be no one better at it in his generation. Certainly Romney isn’t. But a debate requires a different skill set. It is unfortunate, perhaps, for Obama that the nation so recently saw Bill Clinton give a speech at the Democratic National Convention that was made up of debate-sized chunks of eloquent argument. When Obama explains something, he frequently sounds pedantic, while Clinton sounds like he’s having the time of his life.
Obama never tried to go on the attack against Romney. No mention of his labeling 47 percent of the nation as lazy shiftless folk who relish government dependency. No raising of women’s issues. No real effort to put the “flip flopper” label on Romney. When Romney has lost debates in the past, to Ted Kennedy and others, it’s when people expose his acrobatic position taking, and forced him to defend it. Why didn’t Obama bring back Kennedy’s wicked line about Romney being “multiple choice” on abortion?