- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

A Whole New Ballgame

Mitt Romney on Wednesday night turned in the finest debate performance of any candidate of either party in the 52 years since Richard Nixon faced John F. Kennedy, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan’s demolition of Jimmy Carter in 1980.

But where Reagan won with style and quips–“There you go again”–and his closing line, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Romney crushed Obama on both substance and style.

Mitt was like a contender so keyed up by his title shot that, between rounds, he could not sit on his stool, but stood in his corner to rush out and re-engage the champ the instant the bell sounded for the next round.

Obama was mauled, with facts, figures, anecdotes, arguments, jokes, quips. A smiling Romney was on offense all night. And the president’s performance seems inexplicable.

With the split screen showing his response to Romney’s swarm attacks, he appeared diffident, sullen, pouting, flustered, petulant.

Obama made no serious blunder. Yet, on the split screen, as Romney lectured him with a stern smile, Obama seemed a chastened schoolboy, head down, being instructed by a professor that if he did not get his grades up he would not be back next semester.

The verdict on the Denver encounter–that Romney turned in the performance of his life and one of the most impressive in the history of presidential debates, and that the president underperformed, was outclassed and lost badly–was virtually unanimous.

Indeed, liberal columnists and commentators are among those most angered and appalled at Obama’s performance.


Why did he not fight back, they ask, with all the ammunition at his disposal?

The defense being offered by the Obama spinners is that Mitt was brazenly changing positions right up there on stage, that he was not telling the truth about his positions, that he was misstating facts.

But that leaves a glaring question. Why, then, didn’t the president call him out? To this they have no answer.

Where does the race stand, a month from Election Day?

Members of the Republican commentariat who were grousing that Mitt had blown it may now become enthusiastic again, as clearly this race is far from over. Folks in the grandstand who were heading for the exit ramps are heading back to their seats.

We have a brand new ballgame here.

But if the campaign of 2012 is not lost, not by a long shot, it is not won, either.

The first sign of how great a recovery Mitt made will come next week in the head-to-head polls, when the nation has absorbed the news that Obama not only got waxed, he came off as man exhausted, weary with the duties of office, who lacks the fire and energy to lead us out of the economic doldrums in which this country finds itself.

Yet even if the national polls find Mitt surging, the polls in the battleground states will have to turn dramatically, as early voting is already taking place in half of the country. And that voting began when it appeared that Obama was coasting to a second term.

Can Ohio, for example, where Mitt has been consistently down by high single digits, be retrieved?

Is Wisconsin just too far a reach?

Perhaps the greatest advance Mitt Romney made in that debate was that, for once, he came off not just as a tough businessman and resolute budget-cutter who can put the nation’s fiscal house in order, but as something of a conservative of the heart.

This has always been the missing dimension.

The reaction of the Obamaites to the thrashing their man sustained is probably not going to be sportsmanlike. We will now hear more of the Gordon Gekko of Bain Capital writing off the 47 percent and more on the missing tax returns and Cayman Islands account.

But if we do, that will also tell the nation something.

It will testify to the truth that Barack Obama is not the nice guy he is portrayed as being. And if his campaign reverts to the low road, it will convey another unmistakable message: i.e., the president cannot win on his record; he cannot win in debates about the future. Where Reagan after his first term spoke of “Morning in America,” the only way Obama can win a second term is to demonize his opponent.

Gov. Romney still has miles to go before he sleeps. But the president is today facing a dilemma, as well.

Given his performance, one of the worst in debate history, Obama cannot afford to lose a second or third debate like that. This crushing defeat has to be shown to be, and to be seen as, an aberration.

Otherwise, the country may conclude that no matter how much it likes him, Obama as a leader is burned out, a mechanic who has tried every tool in the toolbox but cannot get the machinery running again.

The first debate made the race a toss-up again. The second could decide it.

Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of TAC and the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? [1]” Copyright 2012 Creators.com [2].

27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "A Whole New Ballgame"

#1 Comment By Adam Nedsoulis On October 5, 2012 @ 3:13 am

Pat, why are you cheerleading now for Mitt Romney, a man who, as President, will cheerfully turn over all foreign (and miltary) policy decisions to Bibi Netanyahu???

#2 Comment By zaybu On October 5, 2012 @ 7:04 am

The problem that all voters are facing now is: which Romney are we dealing with? The one 18 months ago? Six months ago? The one on October 3rd? And what if after the day he is voted in the WH, he turns out to be different from all the previous Romneys? It’s a question of credibility, of trust, rather than likability or competency. Romney has a mutiple-personality disorder. Will the voters buy that?

#3 Comment By Jim Evans On October 5, 2012 @ 8:56 am

That Obama is burned out, can’t articulate a way forward anyway different from the last four years, can’t discuss his record, and has to demonize his opponent spells trouble for Obama.

Despite downplaying before the debate, Democrats eagerly anticipated watching their man “close the sale”, instead they saw their champ floored, knocked to the canvas with a bloody nose and wearily return to his corner, a damaged candidate, not the triumphant champ of their dreams.

That their expectations were “buried”, as Joe Biden described the middle class these last four years, explains the unanimous decision of left-leaning pundits.

Claims of “Romney was lying” are echoes of Bob Dole’s, “stop lying about my record.”

We all know what happened to Bob Dole.

And Obama is no Bill Clinton. The Obama economy has the middle class on edge they might be the next to go off the cliff in this sputtering economy with signs of an impending stall all too clear.

What a reversal: Obama could be the ‘Bob Dole’ of 2012 constantly grousing, “stop lying about my record”.

The problem for Obama: It isn’t a lie, the economy is in trouble and everybody knows it.

#4 Comment By Jim P On October 5, 2012 @ 8:58 am

How exactly do you effectively engage in a debate with someone who totally denies his previously declared positions? Romney may have won the performance (sadly, that counts for a lot with an uninformed electorate), but he showed once again that he will say anything without regard to facts much less truth.

#5 Comment By RKJ On October 5, 2012 @ 9:04 am

Obama will still win, taking Ohio and Florida with him. The popular vote will be overwhelmingly close.

And the Mitt of the debate was not the Mitt of the primaries. As predicted, his former self appeared.

#6 Comment By Steve in Ohio On October 5, 2012 @ 10:56 am

Good anaysis, Pat. I voted for Ron Paul in the primary the way I used to vote for you in the 90’s. We have to settle for Romney this year, but hopefully the future GOP will be run by Buchanan conservatives and Paul libertarians.

#7 Comment By icarusr On October 5, 2012 @ 11:30 am

“the economy is in trouble and everybody knows it.”

Yup. Including the 420,000 who joined the work force and the 870,000 who found jobs. Trouble.

#8 Comment By Adam On October 5, 2012 @ 11:30 am

The lead response by Obama to any variation of the question, how do you differ from your opponent on this issue needs to be; I don’t know, it depends on which of him shows up tonight.

#9 Comment By Jim Evans On October 5, 2012 @ 11:52 am

Jim P, as Reagan said of Carter, “There you go again.”

Romney never had a plan to cut tax revenue by 5 trillion dollars, that was the Obama campaign spin, but you bought it (as intended).

Romney called Obama on that whopper. But as the Obama campaign has their talking points, so Obama kept to it. So, Romney kept pointing out that wasn’t his plan.

Actually, both Democrats & Republicans have discussed legislation for ‘revenue neutral’ rate reductions balanced against ‘deduction’ and “loophole” elimination. Romney’s plan reflects that bi-partisan approach.

What was not spelled out are the specific deductions and loopholes to be eliminated because that is will be part of congressional negotiation (where Democrats will fully participate).

That you didn’t know about those discussions or the real Romney plan reflects the corporate media carrying water for the Obama campaign talking points.

Romney was setting the record straight in the debate without the filter of the media — so now you know.

#10 Comment By Bob On October 5, 2012 @ 11:56 am

Pat, what do you see as “conservative of the heart”. I heard a guy promising more Free Lunch and more Free War. Basically, Romney spent 90 minutes promising pork for votes, while lying about balancing the budget. Sure, it is great to fire Big Bird, but I am more concerned about future unfunded wars to socially reengineer the middle east, and the costs of the exploding deficits that Romney is implying. So id a conservative LC zur Gesetz Kran a war mongering statist of action, Thema you may be on to something.

#11 Comment By Bob On October 5, 2012 @ 11:58 am

Ok. Conservative LC zur Gezetz Mean = conservative of the heart. My touch keypad switched to German on me mid sentence.

#12 Comment By tbraton On October 5, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

“And the Mitt of the debate was not the Mitt of the primaries. As predicted, his former self appeared.”

Well, I watched virtually all of the endless debates during the Republican nomination campaign, and Romney, by my estimation and general consent, “won” just about every one. I wasn’t at all surprised by his performance the other night; any objective observer would have to conclude that he is pretty good in the debate format. (Chris Christie was the only Republican who openly predicted a great performance by Romney before the debate. He called it right.) Likewise, I was not terribly surprised by Obama’s flat performance because I never bought into the MSM mania and extreme adulation of Obama—and I voted for him in 2008. It must be kept in mind that a very large audience (up to 67 million) viewed the debate, and that was the first time most viewers got to see Romney unfiltered by media intermediaries. I can’t help thinking that many were impressed by him. As I stated yesterday on Larison’s blog, I believe we will see the polls moving decisively in Romney’s direction.

#13 Comment By Rossbach On October 5, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

“Why did he [Obama] not fight back, they ask, with all the ammunition at his disposal?”

That’s the problem. He did. That’s why he lost the debate.

#14 Comment By Tom Piatak On October 5, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

An excellent analysis of the debate from a man who knows more about American presidential debates than almost anyone else.

#15 Comment By Bob Jones On October 5, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

@Jim Evans, Actually the number come from the Tax Policy Institute, who ran the numbers in the original tax plan, which Romney has apparently back away from.

Their conclusion was that his proposed cuts would result in a net loss of 465 Billion a year in tax revenue and the the loopholes he plans to close for the wealthy wouldn’t come close to offsetting it. The TPI also assumed that if he was serious about revenue neutrality he was have to look at the very popular deductions used mostly by the middle class, i.e. mortgage interest, health insurance, and retirement savings accounts. If these “loopholes” were closed this could result in a net increase to tax payers in the middle income bracket of as much as $2000/year.

So, Obama wasn’t spinning, but instead relied on the TPI’s assessment of Romney’s originally stated tax plans. Now if Romney chooses to pretend that he never proposed his tax plan then you should revisit who is actually spinning what.

I am not defending Obama, but I think you need to be adequately informed before making such comments, rather than just trusting a guy like Romney, who can’t seem to believe the same thing for more than a day at a time.

#16 Comment By Bob Jones On October 5, 2012 @ 2:39 pm


While a lot of people may have seen this debate, I disagree that this was the first time people got to see Romney unfiltered. There were plenty on “debates” during the primary season and Romney was pretty unfiltered for most of those, and also pretty capable of being as smug and dishonest as he was last night.

I think the real issue will be did he change his likability ratings enough for that to translate into support at the voting booth. My sense is that he didn’t do that. In fact, I listened to some of the debate on the radio while driving home and then caught that last 20 minutes on TV. While much of what he said was the same shape-shifting, dissembling, tripe, on TV I found him to be smug and to an expect extremely entitled and a bit bullying. My sense is that those who haven;t already made up their minds – likely a very small percentage of those watching – may very well not be inspired to like him more, which may not give him a bounce in the polls that he is looking for.

I think it has been pointed out that we did not have a Kerry administration, even though he was quite successful in debating Bush. We’ll see how it looks next week, but I don’t expect too much change, and the upcoming debates will be harder, as Romney will have to talk foreign policy, and unless he does a complete reversal on policy there he is likely to scare the moderates back into support Obama or a third party.

#17 Comment By mike2000 On October 5, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

It’s interesting to read comments on TAC.

Romney is undoubtedly not a conservative. Howver,with the exception of his warmongering foolishness, he is far less damaging to this country than Obama. Why anyone follower of TAC would vote for Obama is beyond me.

I am assuming that some of the commenters are disgruntled Paul supporters. The Party treatment of Paul supporters is reprehensible but would you better off with 4 more years of Obama.

The funniest comments of all the “na na na, Romney LIES” commenets. These whiners are apparently oblivious to the numerous lies and broken promises of Obama and every politician before him. To say that Romney is any worse is illogical nonsense.

#18 Comment By tbraton On October 5, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

“There were plenty on “debates” during the primary season and Romney was pretty unfiltered for most of those, and also pretty capable of being as smug and dishonest as he was last night.”

Are you seriously contending that the Republican debates drew 67 million viewers? Maybe the 20(?) debates in total, but I wouldn’t be certain of that. Many of the people who watched the Republican debates were political junkies like me who have nothing better to do with their time. I moved to Florida from Washington, D.C., and the cultural shock was immense. Nobody down here likes to talk about politics. So I am pretty certain that many of those 67 million who viewed the debates were seeing Romney unfiltered for the first time. And I am positive that many of them drew a different conclusion about Romney than you. Are you related to Daniel Larison by any chance?
My sense is that those who haven;t already made up their minds – likely a very small percentage of those watching – may very well not be inspired to like him more, which may not give him a bounce in the polls that he is looking for.”

Can you cite any support for that proposition? Why would 67 million tune in to the debate if they had already made up their minds?

#19 Comment By tbraton On October 5, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

From today’s NY Times article on Iran:

“Yet Mr. Ahmadinejad declined to talk about the current negotiations. Instead, to the astonishment of Iranian officials, he argued at the session that the Iranian people were better off economically than they had been when he came to office.” [3]

It looks like Obama must have slipped Ahmadinejad a CD with some of campaign speeches at the recent UN session.

#20 Comment By tbraton On October 6, 2012 @ 2:22 am

I asked earlier “Are you seriously contending that the Republican debates drew 67 million viewers? Maybe the 20(?) debates in total, but I wouldn’t be certain of that.”
It should be kept in mind that the Republican debates were usually sponsored by an individual TV network or cable channel which thus earned the exclusive right to televise the debate. This is what I found about television ratings for the 2011-2012 Republican debates by doing a little Googling:

“The Your Voice, Your Vote special in New Hampshire [on January 8, 2012], hosted by George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer, attracted 6.3 million total viewers from 9-11 p.m. ET/6-8 p.m. PT. That’s the third-highest viewership number behind ABC News’ December special from Des Moines, Iowa, which averaged 7.6 million viewers, and Fox News Channel’s telecast that same month, which lured 6.7 million” [4]

“The ABC News/Yahoo News Republican presidential debate drew 7.58 million total viewers on Saturday night [December 7, 2011], making it the most-watched GOP debate of the 2012 campaign season so far. . .

The two-hour debate–moderated by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos from Des Moines, Iowa–also drew 2.1 million 25-to-54-year-old viewers, according to Nielsen data, more from that age demographic than any other 2012 GOP debate has.

The next most-viewed debate was Fox News’ Google co-hosted affair on Sept 22. in Orlando, Fla., which drew 6.11 million total viewers, including 1.7 million 25-to-54-year-olds.

Before Saturday, the most recent televised GOP primary debate–Nov. 22 on CNN–drew 5.48 million total viewers and 1.52 million adults 25-to-54.

MSNBC’s Sept. 7 debate from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., drew 1.73 million 25-to-54-year-olds, now second among all 2012 debates in that demographic.” [5]

When you figure that many of the viewers of each individual Republican debate probably were the same viewers of the other debates, it is highly unlikely that the total viewership of all the Republican debates came close to the estimated 67-70 million viewers of the debate the other night. I believe it is also safe to say that most of the viewers of the Republican debates were Republicans while the debate the other night probably drew many Democrats and Independents as well.

#21 Comment By libertarian jerry On October 6, 2012 @ 7:11 am

If Romney makes it to the Presidency in 2012 does anyone think things will be much different in 2016? That if Obama gets reelected will things be much different in 2016? America has been heading toward an economic abyss since,at least 2007, an no one person,President or not,will change that fact. The decline and fall of the American Economy has already been baked into the cake. With the ingredients for the recipe being formulated in 1913 with the establishment of the Federal Reserve,fractional reserve,fiat money system. Its inevitable, and there isn’t anything Obama or Romney can do about it.

#22 Comment By Puller58 On October 6, 2012 @ 7:41 am

Afraid this is just Pat’s obsession with ousting Obama at any cost. Conservative? Mitt’s not one. And Pat looks past Romney’s foreign policy advisors which look a lot like the bunch that Bush had. Thought Pat didn’t like them much?

#23 Comment By Jim Evans On October 6, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

That New Yorker cover is priceless.

The empty lectern (with empty chair).

Clint was right.

#24 Comment By Better Cause On October 6, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

Well I guess Mr. Buchanan did not recall Mr. Reagan’s demeanor in the debate with President Carter or Mr. Mondale, it was in no way as this presentation by “Mitt the Pitt” also in the debate with Mr. Mondale President Reagan lost the debate and won by a devastating landslide…..don’t forget the how dare you moment…I think she is Secretary of State.

#25 Comment By Rebreh On October 6, 2012 @ 8:12 pm

I still don’t get why Romney won the debate…Can you flip all your previously held beliefs a moment before a debate and be considered a winner?

#26 Comment By Adam Nedsoulis On October 7, 2012 @ 2:34 am

Anyone even thinking of voting for Romney should just cut out the middleman, and write in Bibi Netanyahu’s name instead.

#27 Comment By tbraton On October 8, 2012 @ 10:43 am

“I still don’t get why Romney won the debate…Can you flip all your previously held beliefs a moment before a debate and be considered a winner?”

Well, apart from the fact that Romney presented the image of a dynamic executive in full command of his facts and his argument and Obama appeared listless and indifferent and clueless, there are the results of the most recent Gallup poll which show that 72% of those who watched the debate thought Romney did the better job compared to only 20% who thought Obama did the better job (97-2 among Repubs, 70-19 among Independents and even 49-39 among Dems). [6]
Among those 20% were no doubt those U of Wisconsin-Madison students who believed Obama should have been allowed a teleprompter during the debate.