There were no “there you go again” moments. There wasn’t even a solid, hilarious zinger, such as “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Ronald Reagan is gone, may he rest in peace. Mitt Romney is the 2012 Republican nominee, and he made skeptical conservatives proud in his first face-to-face confrontation with the 44th President of the United States.
In short, he showed the world why he should be number 45.
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There were times when Romney did seem to channel the Gipper, like when he said, “Free people and free enterprise are more effective in bringing down the cost of health care than government will ever be.” But his real strength in this debate was that he was prepared. He was on his toes. He came armed with facts and figures that could be sprinkled throughout the debate without making him seem like a policy wonk who could not relate to the average voter. He was empathetic. Most of all, he was passionate and presidential.
Obama, on the other hand, appeared to be phoning it in. So accustomed is he to being surrounded by sycophants, the president almost looked stunned at times that his singular awesomeness was not enough to carry the night. In fact, to sum up the next day’s desperate spin being put forth by the Obama press agents who masquerade as analysts on his favorite cable channel, MSNBC: If only the Obama we all know and love on the campaign trail had shown up at this debate, we would not have to be admitting that he got his head handed to him by Mitt Romney — who, as we all know, is not worthy to tie the president’s shoes.
The truth is that during the debate, Obama almost seemed lost without his teleprompter and his canned applause and laugh lines. While Romney fixed his gaze directly upon the president during the entire debate, Obama refused to look at his opponent most of the time. He appeared alternately bored, distracted, disengaged, annoyed, and/or in need of a lifeline.
In fact, moderator Jim Lehrer threw Obama at least one such life preserver. About a third of the way through the debate, Romney had just decimated Obama’s “balanced” approach to reducing the deficit, which includes job-killing tax increases in addition to reductions in the insane amounts of spending in which this administration has engaged. At this point, with Obama looking positively flummoxed, Lehrer tried to help him regain his composure by feeding him a line to get him back on track: “Mr. President, you’re saying that in order to get the job done, it’s got to be balanced.” Without that help, there is no telling how long it might have taken the president to recover.
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Romney’s most devastating assault on Obama came when the president made the mistake of attacking the so-called “tax breaks” for oil companies. Romney pointed out that the policy is an accounting treatment that has been in effect for a hundred years, mostly to spur oil exploration, and that it amounts to $2.8 billion a year.
“And it’s time to end it,” Obama retorted.
“And in one year,” Romney shot back, “you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world…That’s about fifty years’ worth of what oil and gas receives.” Later, Romney returned to the same theme, this time telling Obama that his subsidies to solar and wind energy companies could have hired two million teachers in our public schools. He also pointed out that some of those companies — many of which failed after being bailed out with billions of tax dollars — were owned by donors to the Obama campaign.
For those of us who eat, sleep, and live this stuff 24/7, it is sometimes hard to comprehend that, for many voters, this may well have been the first time they have seen Romney as anything other than the ogre who puts men out of work, kills their wives, starves their children, and counts his money as he laughs, “Let them eat cake!” That is the image of the Republican challenger who has been spoon-fed to the masses in those 30-second, four-Pinocchio whoppers the Obama campaign has been dishing out for the last several months.
On October 3, 2012, all that changed. We are now in a whole new political universe. Now America knows the difference between electing a community organizer and a seasoned executive.
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