The Conventional Wisdom was in quickly on the debate Wednesday night and it says that Mitt Romney rolled and President Obama just stood there. All the people who hyped down the expectations have now switched sides: the Romney folks who said that debates don’t matter are saying it was a game changer, and whatever the pundits said yesterday and the days before are either saying “I told you so” or paying off their bets because they were 100% wrong but still have an in with the bookers at Fox News and MSNBC.
There are some folks on the Obama side who absolutely lost it. During his live-blogging, Andrew Sullivan had a complete meltdown, and I passed by a couple of other sites where it was more like, “Hey c’mon, where’s the blood and the fistfight?” From a strictly theatrical point of view, it was like a comedy routine along the lines of Abbott & Costello, where you have the mild-mannered straight guy and the goofy hyper buffoon… except for the time when Mr. Romney was grinning tight-lipped, which for some reason reminded me of Jack Nicholson in The Shining just before he went for the ax.
I think if anyone lost Wednesday night, it was the guardian of the truth: it was like they were run over by a tank. We all know that the facts are going to get distorted in a forum like this, but there were so many lies and misstatements from Mitt Romney that it was easy for him to be “on his game” and “dominating.” That’s pretty easy when you’re lying through your teeth. Mr. Obama may have had his moments of evasion and compression, but it was nothing compared to the non-stop just-make-shit-up from Mr. Romney. I guess if you were to give points for that, Mr. Romney won the lying portion by a mile. (By the way, whoever came up with the format for the debate should be fired. The idea was okay, but not for 90 minutes. It would have worked if the time frame had been longer — like two hours — but by then you would have had people stroked out in the middle of the street.)
To those who were inconsolable Wednesday night and yesterday, let me remind you that first debates are rarely a sign of the eventual outcome. In 1984, Ronald Reagan came across like Uncle Fluffy in his first outing with Walter Mondale, and in 2004, George W. Bush was way off his game in his first match with John Kerry. There are still two more debates to go, and I know I will see comments from readers both here and abroad that will speculate that President Obama took a dive on the first one just to lull Mr. Romney into a false sense of security and that he will wipe the floor with him the next two times. Okay, if that’s what gets you through the night. And for the folks who are chortling over Mr. Romney’s performance, a little advice from Han Solo: Don’t get cocky. (Actually, go ahead and get cocky; it will be that much more fun to get the schadenfreude on when you lose.)
Despite what Chuck Todd, Chris Cillizza, and the rest of the punditocracy on both sides say, I don’t think this debate will change the poll numbers much. It wasn’t as bad as some fear or as good as it could have been.
(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)