Readers of these pages won't be surprised to hear non-leftists suggest that Mitt Romney won last night's debate.
But let me tell you of a few early reactions you might not have heard about (other than in Stacy McCain's excellent article) and which are perhaps more informative simply due to their objective or even anti-Romney fundamental nature, starting with the rabid Obamaphiles at MSNBC:
- MSNBC hosts this morning made a comparison between Buster Douglas and Mike Tyson, asking "Where did that come from?!?"
- More: "Performatively, the president of the United States did not show up last night...Obama really was passive, annoyed-looking, looking away. It really was dispiriting. It might have been the worst performance in a debate, not just the worst performace by Obama in a debate. He did not show up and he has to next time."
- "It was one of the great debate performances that anyone has ever seen on Mitt Romney's part last night. Barack Obama let Mitt Romney back in the game."
- "The president's weakest moments were when he was trying to defend his record...Rope-a-dope without the knockout punch."
- Chuck Todd said "I was amazed how poorly (Obama) defended Dodd-Frank."
- One point they made which also really struck me at the time: "Obama had a bad closing two minutes", with the commentators wondering aloud why Obama was not better prepared? "He knew his closing was coming, and it was just so flat."
- They noted that he never mentioned women's issues, "the 47 percent", or President Bush.
- This was a "stylistic disaster" "much worse" for Obama than the Republican convention was for the Republicans.
- "Mitt Romney was reasonable, compassionate, in touch with the middle class. He seemed like a guy who had a plan."
Again, those were all on MSNBC. The fact that an outlet so biased against Romney had no choice but to make statements like these; the reality was that clear.
- BBC hosts said Obama looked tired and that Romney was far more energetic and in command. They also noted, as others have, that Obama kept looking down, or at the moderator, while Romney kept looking at Obama.
- It was interesting to hear BBC interviews of Democrats at a "debate watch party" in Washington, DC. Each of them said that Obama was better and clearer than Romney. They were obviously watching another debate, but the real take-away from those interviews is that Romney is wasting his time to go after urban Democrats. Obama, liberalism, and the Democratic Party are their religion.
Influential Democratic strategist James Carville said that Obama looked like he would rather have been somewhere else.
In terms of more objective measures of who won the debate:
- Stock index futures immediately rallied last night and are holding the gains into Thursday's market opening.
- Betting odds at Intrade.com of Obama's being re-elected plummeted from 74 percent to 66 percent (accelerating a slight downward drift from nearly 80 percent a week ago. 80 percent was the culmination of the GOP's polling and betting weakness which began shortly after the Republican convention and took Obama's odds from 58 percent to 80 percent over the course of three weeks. Most that month-long gain in Obama's betting odds has now been erased.
The question is whether the debate performance moved voters, i.e. whether it moved undecided voters to Romney and whether it re-energized Republican voters, activists, and current or potential volunteers and donors. I expect it must.
In addition to Romney and his campaign, the most relieved people of the night must be Republican congressional candidates across the country. If Romney can win with coattails, or even if Romney loses but prevents Obama from having coattails, it's a massive benefit for those candidates and for the nation. After all, Republican control of the Senate would make a tremendous difference no matter who is president.
In the wake of Todd Akin and other memories of Republicans who can fairly be portrayed as stupid or extreme, Romney needed to come across as intelligent, reasonable, and able to connect with people of all stripes. In addition to his serious but likeable demeanor, his repeated statements about how he was able to work with Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature to "get things done", in stark contrast to Obama's "my way or the highway" approach, was very effective, in part thanks to Barack Obama's failure to use any of his most aggressive talking points.
Between Romney giving the best debate performance of his life and Obama giving his worst, Wednesday's debate was a huge win for Republican electoral hopes next month.
Keep an eye on tomorrow's employment report where, if the trend continues, the unemployment rate may drop to 8% or even 7.9% but primarily because people are dropping out of the work force much faster than they are getting jobs. Since Obama took office, more than 8.4 million people have dropped out of the work force. If they were still in the work force, the reported unemployment rate would be over 11 percent. The final employment report before the election comes just 5 days before the November 6th election date.