Misstep In Colorado
At Fox News, Charles Krauthammer said that polls should tighten a bit with Mitt Romney's solid debate (transcript, here) performance in Denver. The Republican demonstrated to voters bombarded by ads attacking him that he "does not have horns" while, Krauthammer observed, Barack Obama unwisely sat on a lead.
Sat on a lead, indeed. There were at least ten instances in which President Obama stated or strongly implied agreement with his opponent, including
When it comes to our tax code, Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate is too high.
On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we've got to boost American energy production.
Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small-business growth.
When it comes to corporate taxes, Governor Romney has said he wants to, in a revenue-neutral way, close loopholes, deductions — he hasn't identified which ones they are — but thereby bring down the corporate rate. Well, I want to do the same thing, but I've actually identified how we can do that.
You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we've got a somewhat similar position.
Now, in fairness, what Governor Romney has now said is he'll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it.
Now, Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and, you know, I appreciate, and it appears we've got some agreement that a marketplace to work has to have some regulation, but in the past...
And it happens we've got some agreement that a marketplace to work has to have some regulation.
...the irony is that we've seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model. And as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn't destroyed jobs.
There's a reason why Governor Romney set up the plan that he did in Massachusetts. It wasn't a government takeover of health care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance. But what it does say is that insurers, you've got to take everybody. Now, that also means that you've got more customers.
At MSNBC, Ed Schultz noted that Obama said nothing about Bain Capital, the 47%, offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands or elsewhere. Schultz noted that Romney was animated, yet not angry, and appeared to want the job, whereas the incumbent appeared almost indifferent to remaining president. Mitt Romney, Chris Matthews recognized, "seemed to endure the evening while Romney seemed to relish it." Chris Hayes, who also realized that Romney helped himself in the debate, asserted that the President's people believe that Obama's biggest asset is his personality and feared that a more aggressive approach would have undercut that. Left unsaid: Team Obama worries constantly about the President appearing to be an angry black man.
Reverend Al Sharpton argued that, despite initial impressions of the debate, Romney in the next couple of weeks will have to answer for "his lies." At Salon, Joan Walsh notices a few of Romney's conflicts with objective reality: the candidate denied proposing a $5 trillion tax cut, contended he is "not going to cut education funding," claimed the Affordable Care Act had raised taxes by a trillion dollars, and, describing inaccurately the Independent Payment Advisory Board, maintained Obama has established "a board that will tell people what kind of treatment they're going to get," Whether fact checkers will have much of an impact on the public's perception of the veracity or integrity of the challenger remains to be seen.
Still, there is a major opening for the Obama campaign in Romney's declaration "But you make a very good point, which is that the — the place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is." That would make for a delightful campaign ad given, as Walsh's Salon colleague, Alex Seitz-Wald, notes, "The obvious rejoinder, ready-made for a DNC attack, is that Romney’s heart must be in the Cayman Island, Bermuda or Switzerland, where Romney has put his money.
It's on to the vice-presidential debate and the following two presidential debates. Before this encounter, many pundits had argued that the first debate between Obama and Romney would be the most important of the three, and few if any maintained that either of the last two would be more important. Fortunately for the incumbent, that will prove false. Voters will tune in to Obama-Romney II and III to determine if their first impressions were correct. If so, that bodes ill for the President; if not, his election will be almost assured. In either case, the first debate, despite an almost unanimous decision for the challenger, thankfully will not prove pivotal.