A Summary of the Beatdown, er, First Debate

President Obama sure lived up to the low expectations he told us all to have with regard to his debating on Wednesday night. I actually expected him to win the debate by a small margin. Boy was I wrong.

I wrote notes in a pad as I watched the debate. Here are my impressions and observations:

Mitt Romney really sounded like he knew what he was talking about, particularly when it came to the economy. He had a “let’s get down to business” attitude one should expect from a man who has been in business for 25 years, and which one should desire in a president, especially for our current economy.

Romney did deliver a somewhat prepared-sounding opening statement, as I’m sure it was prepared, which is to be expected. But his opening statement ended with a “thank you,” which I thought was bad. It makes sense that he’d say that, given his business background, but that one moment came across as mechanical.

However, it was in the first twenty minutes of the debate that I believe Romney handily overcame any roadblocks to his likability factor. A CNN poll taken after the debate asked that very question, Who was more likable? For the first time, Romney overcame Obama (46 percent to 45 percent). Part of this might be due to Romney having gotten three laughs (intentionally) from the audience in the first twenty minutes.

As for Obama, he sounded as if his debate training with Sen. John Kerry consisted merely of snippets of past speeches, because there was absolutely nothing new that came out of his mouth. It was tired.

Obama also rarely looked at Romney, not even when Romney was talking directly to him. Obama kept his head down and his lips tightly curled inward. At one point, thirty minutes into the debate, Mitt got very serious, speaking directly to Obama, sternly but still very respectfully, and it could be seen in Obama’s face that he despises being contradicted. Obama hasn’t been challenged at such a sustained length in his nearly four years in office, nor during his campaigning in 2007 and 2008. He looked like a pouting child (the ones who usually grow up to be liberals).

After that first minute of Mitt speaking directly to Obama, Obama staggered noticeably. His elegance was gone. He responded to Romney by speaking in an almost stream-of-conscious manner, from one topic to the next, a rambling about gas companies, taxes, and school textbooks. It was all over the place, and Romney, in response, drew attention to this.

Romney then did what every conservative fearfully suspected he would not do, which is to bring up Solyndra and Obama’s cronyism, even if very briefly, adding in a zinger along the lines of “I’ve heard of picking winners and losers, but you just pick losers.” (Obama never addressed Solyndra or any of the similar scandals. He just looked at the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, and suggested that they move on to another topic.)

Romney also gave the best line of the evening, saying to Obama, “You said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas…? Look, I’ve been in business for twenty-five years; I have no idea what you’re talking about. Maybe I need to get a new accountant.”

When the topic switched to health care, Obama made his case by (surprise) appealing to our emotions. Romney relied on the reality of cold, hard figures, appealing to our rationale and logic. And Romney several times brought up the fact that Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare in order to help fund Obamacare. Obama, in response, deflected. He didn’t address the matter at all.

Obama’s final line in his closing statement also probably didn’t help him: “If you’ll vote for me, I promise I’ll fight just as hard in a second term.”

“Just as hard?” That’s not hard enough. That translates to, “I’ll fail just as badly in a second term.” And that’s a promise best left kept to himself.

The icing on the cake, to dig into my bag of tricks for a cliche, was that MSNBC almost unanimously—with hair unkempt and spittle flying— admitted Obama lost and Romney won. And so I can say, for the first time ever, I agree with MSNBC.