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If this were a T-Ball game instead of a Presidential Debate Jim Lehrer would have stopped it early, invoking the slaughter rule.  Sadly for President Obama he had to stand behind the podium for a full 90 minutes looking petulant and repeating the same false taking points over and over whether they were relevant or not.

Last night Mitt Romney looked like a man passionate about changing the country.  Obama looked like a man not used to having his policies questioned.

The challenger’s task last night was to show he had a grasp of the issues, reasonable solutions, and most important was that he had to show the wasn’t the evil villain, the hater of puppies and little babies portrayed in the Obama campaign advertising.  He passed with flying colors.

From the very beginning the President was trying to avoid talking about his record, while Romney wanted Obama to wear it like Hester’s “A” in The Scarlet LetterYou’ve been president four years. You said you’d cut the deficit in half. It’s now four years later. We still have trillion-dollar deficits. The CBO says we’ll have a trillion-dollar deficit each of the next four years. If you’re re-elected, we’ll get to a trillion-dollar debt.

Romney explained he was Not George Bush:

When Obama made a “failed policies of the past” comment Romney countered with: .. let’s look at history. My plan is not like anything that’s been tried before. My plan is to bring down rates, but also bring down deductions and exemptions and credits at the same time so the revenue stays in, but that we bring down rates to get more people working.

He explained that his tax plan was a restructuring of the Tax Code not a cut to revenues or for the rich, firmly (and diplomatically pointing out that Obama was lying. Obama kept saying the Romney plan was a seven trillion dollar hit to the countries bottom line and tax cuts for the rich.  Romney kept explaining his plan and why it didn’t look like what Obama was describing making the president look like he was repeating empty talking points. Over and over Romney corrected Obama and since the POTUS couldn’t talk about his record and had no real plan to brag about he made the same charge and Romney politely pushed back every time his plan was mis-characterized:

 First of all, I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale that you’re talking about.

So if the tax plan he [Obama] described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist that can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.

Let me repeat — let me repeat what I said. I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not my plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit. That’s point one. So you may keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut, but that’s not my plan.

Mr. President, Mr. President, you’re entitled as the president to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts. All right, I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and — and grants that go to people going to college. I’m planning on (inaudible) to grow. So I’m not planning on making changes there.

And my personal favorite:

Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that — that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.

Each time Romney pushed back Obama seemed to get angrier and less patient, he sported the famous Obama grimace the same one he had when Netanyahu “schooled” him in the oval office.  When he wasn’t grimacing he was looking down or away.  Once the POTUS even emulated the famous Roberto Duran “no mas!” When he told Jim Lehrer Jim, I — you may want to move onto another topic. Another time he had this childish confrontation with the host:

LEHRER: Two minutes — two minutes is up, sir.
OBAMA: No, I think — I had five seconds before you interrupted me, was …

Romney scored points on energy, oil company taxes and for the first time ever explained the difference between Romneycare and Obamacare, fees will go up by $2,500 for citizens, the unelected board that’s going to tell people what kind of treatments they can have, the $716 cut in Medicare, and the depression of the jobs market.  After he explained the difference Romney thrust in the knife:

I just don’t know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the — at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people.

Ouch! That had to hurt!

At times it looked as though the President wasn’t even paying attention.  After a segment where Romney explained one change he would make in Dodd-Frank (the provision which creates banks that are too big to fail) and was cut off from explaining another, the president said:

He says that he’s going to replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform, but we don’t know exactly which ones. He won’t tell us.

How bad was it? Bill Maher who gave $1 million dollars to an Obama superPac tweeted:

And:

The acerbic liberal commentator Ed Schultz said:

I tuned in to MSNBC after the debate and their talking heads were absolutely stunned except for Chris Matthews who exploded. He started yelling things such as “Don’t come out here and pretend you care about old people!” (perhaps it’s time for Matthews to switch to decaf).

So Romney won and won big, but don’t think of last night as a game changer because it wasn’t.  It certainly shifted the momentum, and made Romney look like a viable choice for president.  I suspect that after the weekend when the rolling average polls begin to show the effect of last night there will be a Romney bounce, BUT as I said after DNC they are called bounces because they go up…and they go down.  Romney must continue to show the passion and aggressive defense of his policies shown last night to win this election.

There are two more Presidential debates, Obama’s team is comprised of professionals they will recover from last night and make changes in his debate preparation.  I guarantee that when they meet at Hofstra University in two weeks Barack Obama will be a different and much more formidable opponent and Romney better be ready for this more difficult challenge.

Next week is the VP debate, an entertaining 90 minutes but meaningless because in the final analysis– no one makes their decision based on the Vice President.

Andrew Malcolm has a great analysis of last night’s debate; allow me to suggest you click on Romney hands Obama his lunch–and not a nutritious school one and read his take also.

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