President Obama lost last Wednesday night’s debate and it was not close. In front of nearly seventy million people, President Obama who had previously seemed to rise to the occasion fell apart. The President appeared to be nervous at the beginning of the debate, lethargic throughout, and stunningly unprepared. In just an hour and a half, the President allowed his challenger Mitt Romney, whose poll numbers had never been worse entering the debate, to rise from the dead. This is no exaggeration.
That is not to say that the President Obama lost himself the election with a poor debate performance, far from it. President Obama is still undeniably the favorite going in to the final month of the presidential campaign, but the President missed an opportunity to transform his bid for a second term from a statistical likelihood to a near mathematical certainty.
President Obama is not the only one to blame for this debate debacle, the President’s advisors who had previously proven to be far superior to Mr. Romney’s, let the President down this time in a major way (Jim Lehrer the moderator of the debate, also did the President no favors). How could the President’s advisors during debate prep sessions not remind Obama to, rather than spending most of the time sullenly looking down at the podium as he did last Wednesday night, either look at his opponent or at the camera?
President Obama’s strategy during the debate (if one can even call it that) was to let Mitt Romney dig his own grave. President Obama seemed to be content to simply not make any gaffes and look presidential. The President’s advisors must have thought Mitt Romney to be so unlikeable that if given free reign throughout the debate he would invariably make the kinds of remarks that many Americans have found to be disparaging. President Obama’s camp was proven quite wrong if this was their analysis.
Mitt Romney is not Newt Gingrich who given enough time in front of the camera will say something to jeopardize his candidacy. No, Romney when the bright lights come on is much too politically savvy and too well prepared at this stage of the campaign to make those sorts of mistakes.
As far as the next two debates are concerned, President Obama must practice delivering more succinct responses to questions and learn to directly challenge Mr. Romney when he makes outlandish or factually untrue statements. But more importantly the President needs to recognize that while there will be moments where it will be to his benefit to come off as dignified and presidential, there will be others in which he will need to get his hands dirty and confront Mr. Romney with statement’s he has made in the past that conflict with what he is saying in the present.
This debate must prove a wake-up call to President Obama and his team of advisors. His reelection is not inevitable, Mitt Romney come January Twentieth really could be sitting behind that desk in the Oval Office. If President Obama intends to win this November, then now is the time to shake off any complacency that has set in over the last few months.