Analysis-Romney Wins First Debate By TKO

Harrisburg Patriot-News

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered an impressive debate TKO over President Barack Obama on Wednesday night that should calm the nerves of skittish GOP leaders and provide undecided voters with a compelling reason to give the challenger a second, serious look.

Romney was in full command of details and finally made a convincing case that his supporters have longed for — that he is not only a viable alternative to Obama but a better choice for economically challenged Americans.

Perhaps most important of all, the former Massachusetts governor almost immediately removed the cloak of presidential authority that accompanies an incumbent.

After the debate was over and the families of both candidates greeted them onstage, Obama left quickly while a clearly pleased Romney lingered for a victory lap.

The president was outclassed for long stretches of the 90-minute debate and was clearly missing the oratorical magic that swept him into office four years ago. His stop-start, staccato delivery was far less convincing when compared with Romney’s smooth and calm case-making.

Neither candidate was helped by moderator Jim Lehrer’s weak oversight and inconsequential guidance of the discussion. In the rare instances when Lehrer was able to get the candidates to address each other directly, they mostly talked about where they agreed.

Several cyber pundits were calling the debate a victory for Romney while the action was still going on. And even Democrats conceded as much.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell tweeted, “Romney doing well by appearing & sounding Presidential.”

And liberal cable pundit Bill Maher tweeted, “i can’t believe i’m saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh, noted in a release: “It’s rare that a debate produces the kind of clear winner we saw tonight. Governor Romney needed to articulate a plan for the next four years. He did just that, presenting the kind of plan we’ve been waiting to see from the President.”

Obama looked tired, timid and tentative as he rattled off components of proposals for the future and delivered a lackluster, unconvincing defense of his first term in office.

When he went on the offensive and sought to paint Romney’s economic plan as causing “severe hardships for people,” the former constitutional law professor found himself being taken to school by Romney, who lectured him: “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”

Obama responded with monosyllabic grunts acknowledging Romney’s corrections and failed in his attempt to convince viewers that Romney’s plans would mean a return to the George W. Bush policies that voters blame for the nation’s lingering recession.

“Math, common sense and our history show us that’s not a recipe for job growth,” Obama said.

And when he identified existing tax policies that work against economic growth and equity that he wants to address in a second term, Obama neglected to explain why he had not addressed those shortcomings in the previous three years.

“But you’ve been president four years,” Romney scolded.

Obama found a bit of ground to stand on when he noted AARP support for his Medicare plan but made a rookie mistake when he tried to attack Romney for dismissing his national health care reform even though it was modeled after Romney’s Massachusetts plan and “used the same advisers [who say] it’s the same plan.”

It was an opening Romney had been waiting for months to exploit and delivered a convincing contrast of what he accomplished in Massachusetts and Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

With nearly each Obama utterance, Romney was coiled like a spring to respond and seemed unable to contain his enthusiasm to get at the president’s statements.

Though there was no full knockout, it was the performance Romney needed to set his campaign back on a possible course to victory.

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