Belmont Club

Romney vs Obama Debate

Open thread.

Andrew Sullivan is beside himself with anxiety.

10.23 pm. Lehrer has basically handed the moderation of this to the candidates, and Romney has taken command. And he has done so by speaking for three minutes less.

10.22 pm. The liar has managed to make Obama seem dishonest. In an act of will, Romney’s lies are made effective. …

In live-blogging a debate, I am not judging the intellectual cogency alone. I am judging it as a debate, which is a complex thing, with many factors in play. But I know debating, am good at it, and I can see a wipe-out when it’s, well, in front of one’s nose.

10.17 pm. Romney is even sounding Reagan-like and compassionate right now. The Etch-A-Sketch is shaking, and the old Romney is back, with coded appeals to his base. And then he adds onto that a litany of woes currently experienced. Again, even after Obama’s eloquent answer, Romney is better.

Sullivan should not be too discouraged. By tomorrow Obama will have won. The groundwork is already being laid. “In an act of will, Romney’s lies are made effective.” The Triumph of the Will! It’s Romney’s fault.

Still, it seemed like a bad night for the One. “Jay Rosen ‏@jayrosen_nyu My own debate reax 1… Romney took strong advantage of a weak moderator. Obama just used that weakness to talk longer.”

“Ezra Klein ‏@ezraklein Romney won this debate by seeming specific. Obama got some good ads out of what he got Romney to be specific about.”

“National Journal ‏@nationaljournal [email protected]_fournier: “Obama fell victim Wednesday night to high expectations, a short fuse, and a hungry challenger.”

“James Fallows ‏@JamesFallows I argued that Romney was ‘surprisingly’ good as a debater, Obama ‘surprisingly’ weak. Can anyone disagree?”

“Bill Maher ‏@billmaher my rating: Romney won the debate, Obama had the facts on his side, and Lehrer sucked. Next debate, get @SethMacFarlane to host!”

But if things are even half as bad as some accounts have it and Romney held his own and more than his own, then Barack Obama has lost something irreplaceable tonight: his aura of invincibility. Romney came to the podium advertised as a man. Obama strode to the stage a god.

That peculiar burden meant Obama was not only expected to draw even with the bumbling, clenched and moronic Republican, he was expected to devastate him. The cumulative effect of the media’s portrayal of Romney as slightly better than an idiot was to raise the expectations of the President’s supporters to unrealistic levels. They came to watch their god massacre the illiterate Mormon. The Harder They Fall.

What happens now will be the first real test of Obama the public man. Romney has either broken him or stoked the fires of determination to do better next time. If the former, then he can only return to the fray in a demoralized fashion. If the latter, then Romney should watch out.

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