I'm a liberal, and as such I was looking forward to Barack Obama making a showing of what I consider to be a board-room blowhard in Mitt Romney. I was looking forward to a few well placed jabs by our smooth-talking president.
What we got instead was a 15-round unanimous decision by the judges. Watching this, you felt like Romney could have knocked him to the canvas in the second round, but dragged it out because he enjoyed dishing out punishment instead. It was a 41-3 drubbing of your favorite football team. And we were lucky to get on the board.
This morning, democrats are trying to spin it to save their bruised egos: Romney won because he lied. There's even a rope-a-dope analogy going around that says that Obama is playing the long game and he lost this debate intentionally.
No he didn't. Romney won because he was a better debater than Obama.
This was like watching a physics professor debate a barracuda. Romney was crisp, cut to the heart of the matter, and even directed the discussion to whatever points suited him and away from Obama, referring several times to the fact that Obama was talking about many different points. He took on the role of moderator, paring the discussion back to its essence, he defined the parameters of the debate, and the victory was clear in the first 5 minutes.
If Obama is a former President of Harvard Law Review, I'm reapplying.
Overall, the debate underscored a huge problem since Obama has taken office, and that is that Obama has developed a complexity complex.
Mario Cuomo once said "You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose". Obama campaigned poetically when he ran four years ago, painting word pictures of hope and change that were captivating.
But sitting in the big chair has changed him. It hasn't changed the essence of the man: he's still warm-hearted and likable, effective, and I believe the best man for the job.
Four years as President and Obama is falling prey to the difficulty of the job.
We heard it in practically every response last night: rambling diatribes that saw the CNN "undecided voter response" lines go from positive responses when Romney spoke to "Dad, I just want to go back to playing video games" when Obama sputtered on about how he's(he used "we've" a lot) done a good job navigating the complexities of the position.
The American people don't want to hear about how hard it is to find solutions. They just want solutions.
Too Clever By Half
I've been in the boardroom with Romney's before, men who are so strong in their persona that no one dares speak for fear of being railroaded. Obama spoke longer, and took his time to outline nuance. Romney had a laser-beam focus, dishing up word salads that were satisfying by comparison.
Romney showed that he is a powerful presence, and even the moderator(I think his name was Jim something, but I'm not sure because he was completely useless in directing questions and discussion) was wholly unable to stop Romney from running over him at will. He interrupted Obama, made his points powerfully and succinctly, and even directed the topics of conversation smoothly to what suited him. It wasn't close.
Men like Romney rule the boardroom because they offer the simplest solutions to complex issues. No matter that "eliminating deductions, credits, and exemptions" is the same as raising taxes - no one called him on it, so it stands. No matter that the 716 billion dollars in cuts to Medicare is a gigantic lie - it was raised time and again by Romney and went unchallenged by Obama. The boardroom isn't ruled by fact-checkers. It's ruled by powerful men who state their case succinctly and to the immediate benefit of their shareholders.
Obama has spent four years coming up with complex, reasonable solutions to incredibly difficult problems. That is what we want our president to do. However, at the end of the day we also want our president to boil those solutions into 20-word explanations that satisfy our need to believe those solutions are simple and effective.
It's easy to concede that Romney won the first debate - it was glaringly obvious. It highlights the problem Obama has sitting in the big chair, and also begs the question:
Do we want a man in the white house that speaks prettily to us - the reason we chose Obama in the first place - or do we want a thinker who goes about solving complex problems with complex solutions?
Obama needs to go back to his roots, re-examine both his campaign strategy and his policy-making, and learn from Romney's superior strategy: people want to hear solutions, not the complexity of the problems.