Maybe President Obama forgot his debate with Mitt Romney was on TV. How else to explain his lack of dynamism before a worldwide television audience in the millions. Were it an actual debate, where participants are scored on the substance of what they say, the president might have fared better in postdebate polls. But the public reaction after Wednesday night’s tilt indicated viewers were more turned on by Romney’s energy than Obama’s ennui.
Again and again, Obama matter-of-factly pointed out gaping gaps in Romney’s program for America. Again and again, Romney, with a smile on his face and certainty in his voice, refused to fill in the gaps. It was a winning performance by a candidate whose recent gaffes may have made it easy to exceed expectations.
Obama helped by not reminding viewers of Romney’s belittling remarks about the 47 percent of Americans too poor to pay federal income taxes, or bringing up Romney’s stint as head of a venture capital firm that closed workplaces and later sent jobs overseas. Were the omissions a mistake, or strategy? Romney likely had prepared a retort in anticipation of such attacks.
Romney got off to a strong start Wednesday night by breaking down his economic plan into five parts: “One, get us energy-independent … Number two, open up more trade … Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed … Number four, get to us a balanced budget … Number five, champion small business.” He was clear and concise. He even gave viewers a catchy phrase to remember — “trickle-down government” — to describe Obama’s policies.