This morning, I argued Mitt Romney should, in the words of my old debate coach, knock Obama into the dirt.

When I wrote it, I was hopeful he’d understand that Obama has always been less than he appeared. I hoped he would be tuned up and ready to take command of the debate.  I hoped he would articulate, and not excuse conservatism.

And I prayed he wasn’t going to go for a cheesy “zinger” strategy.

I wanted him to at least survive what I believed would be a spin room post-hoc blood orgy by the very aggressive Obama press team.

The debate deserves a careful deconstruction (and yes, fellow conservatives, we had good stuff and less-good stuff in the messaging), but in the shortest term, I’ll say just a few things.

First, wow.  Wherever this Mitt Romney comes from, more please.  He was confident, enjoying himself, and willing to challenge Obama’s narrative at every turn. Romney had the Happy Warrior vibe tonight, and it showed.  His easy physicality, his steady cadence, and his will to win were evident.

Obama’s affect started off with a weird, tight, contained vibe.  He was never happy to be there, even when he was giving Michelle an anniversary shout-out.  When he said, “Next year, we won’t be doing this in front of 40 million people” you could see him thinking, “…and maybe not even in the White House.”  He was pursed at times, smirking at others.  He is so obviously a man who can only thrive as the only star in the spotlight.

Next, Romney was clearly inside Obama’s OODA Loop for the entire debate.  He was ready for every single attack, and I suspect Obama abandoned a “47%” sally because he realized Romney was ready for it.  After the first few minutes, I was shocked that Obama would lay out attacks he knew Romney was prepped for. It’s too late at night for a policy dissection, but Obama’s strawmen and class-war talking points were anticipated, and dispatched time and again.

Three really big things happened tonight: first, Romney reset the campaign atmospherics.

On the excellent Ricochet live chat, the sense that Romney was on his game filled folks with a new level of energy and determination.  My email inbox was exploding with notes from friends in the VWRC who had spent the last three weeks in a terrible funk.  As one Romney adviser told me tonight, “He put the whole team on his back.”

Buddy, he put the entire GOP and conservative movement on his back.

Second, Obama defused a handful of his most potent arguments against Romney, including Social Security and Medicare.  He dug in hard on Obamacare and the infamous IPABs (can we say “death panels” again, yet?) and kept putting his head on the block for Romney to chop off. 

This matters not only on the merits of the arguments themselves, but because even his most fierce partisans disheartened and in an emotional free-fall. Michael Moore, Andrew Sullivan, Bill Mahr, Chris Matthews, et cetera ad nauseum were devastated. A reporter in the spin room texted me he could barely find an Obama surrogate.  

Their tears are delicious.

Finally, it was good to see the qualities of the man, not just the campaign.  Romney was finally on the stage where he needed to be.  He was finally standing across from Barack Obama, taking his measure, and from the first few minutes, he knew he had Obama’s number.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Not to toot my own horn, but I told you the contrast would be distinct and astounding.  I think that just about sums up the reactions this morning.  

    What I saw last night was the Romney I’ve seen for the last several years, and it was always apparent to anyone who was really looking.

    I can’t imagine a candidate whose resume and character are more suited for the times.  (Now, let’s just cross our fingers and hope we get the chance to keep holding him accountable in office.)

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    James Lileks: It’s almost as if media coverage and some  conservatives’ suspicions kept people from seeing who the guy really was. 

    Performances like that don’t come out of nowhere. · 9 hours ago

    I’ve been thinking for a while now, and last night confirms, that it’s entirely possible that the conservative activists have had it backwards all along. They’ve assumed that because he governed from the center, even crossing into the outright left on occasion, in Massachussetts that that’s where his heart lies, and he’s just telling the base what we want to hear.

    But what if he’s been a conservative all along and was just telling the Mass-es what they wanted to hear? Between Paul Ryan and this debate, I can’t really say with certainty that he’s “pretending” anymore.

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    I thought Romney was excellent. More confident and in charge than I expected, and I was already pretty sure he would do very well in the debates.

    Note to Messrs Robinson and Long;  DON’T JUMP !!!

    Climb down from that ledge carefully, it’s going to be ok !

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    Prior to the debate Scott Rasmussen stated that debates are rarely decisive and this one was unlikely to move the polls by much.  If you were watching the FOX post-debate report, Frank Luntz just turned Rasmussen’s conventional wisdom on its head.  The Luntz focus group went with Romney overwhelmingly and decisively.  Good news indeed.

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  5. Profile Photo Inactive

    This is the best I’ve felt in months.  I can sleep well tonight.

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  6. Profile Photo Contributor

    It’s almost as if media coverage and some  conservatives’ suspicions kept people from seeing who the guy really was. 

    Performances like that don’t come out of nowhere.

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  7. Profile Photo Coolidge

    It’s also remarkable to hear the president stammer on about the transcontinental railroad and land grant universities. You’ve got to aim for that addled middle vote. Most aren’t considering how the TCRR came about and most folks do not know what a land grant university is. They’re struggling with higher prices, unemployment and a very volatile looking Mideast. Maybe he’ll bring up Seward’s Folly during the foreign policy debate. A fine result.Note: deft OODA Loop reference! (2-time HQ Centcom deployer).

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  8. Profile Photo Contributor

    Precisely.  Under fire, President Potemkin doesn’t cut quite so impressive a figure.

    James Lileks: It’s almost as if media coverage and some  conservatives’ suspicions kept people from seeing who the guy really was. 

    Performances like that don’t come out of nowhere. · 3 minutes ago

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  9. Profile Photo Inactive

    Masterful performance by Romney except for the, as Steyn might put it, that “reachy across the aisle” thingy toward the end.

    Don’t know if anyone caught it but at one point when Romney was pummeling him with body blows, Obama turned back as if to signal to someone in the wings, “Help me!” 

    You couldn’t tell exactly what was happening from the camera angle, but all of a sudden they cut away from the two shot and focused solely on Romney.  Coincidence?  Perhaps not.

    Was that black rectangle behind the candidates a two-way mirror?  Was it a sleeping monolith?  Am I imagining things?  Was there a second shooter on the grassy knoll?  Hmmm…

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  10. Profile Photo Inactive

    Romney knew he had Obama’s number: 44, no more no less.

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  11. Profile Photo Inactive

    Romey hugged the garbage man! 

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  12. Profile Photo Inactive

    Romney: 1. Obama: 0

    • #12
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