There was a surreal moment after the first Presidential debate Wednesday night. On CNN, the polling went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney among debate watchers.
Basically two-thirds of the American public who watched the debate claimed Romney won. A majority claimed Romney was with them on taxes, the economy, healthcare, their views of government, etc. He dominated.
A CBS poll of undecided voters who watched the debate mirrored the CNN poll. Suddenly the Democrats took to the airwaves and twitter to rail against the polls oversampling Republicans and being too heavily skewed, too instant to be meaningful, and clearly not an accurate statistical sample of anything. They made the same arguments Republicans have frequently made about polling this year.
Moments after the debate ended, Barack Obama’s campaign team melted down on television. Stephanie Cutter criticized moderator Jim Lehrer. David Axelrod got snippy with Candy Crowley. The Obama campaign sent out an e-mail that did not even mention the presidential debate. It just wanted more money.
The debate was so bad for Obama, I expect Eric Holder to send Jim Lehrer to Guantanamo Bay. Obama probably now agrees with Republicans on defunding PBS. Without his precious TelePrompTer to feed his Gollumesque addiction to its illuminated, precious words, the president fell flat. Instead of John Kerry for a debate partner, the president should have just gone through airport security a few times or embraced BOHICA as a debate preparation strategy.
Put it to you this way, within 10 minutes of the debate ending, Jessica Yellin of CNN spoke with Stephanie Cutter of the Obama campaign. Ms. Cutter conceded up front that Mitt Romney won on both debate preparation and debate style. It went downhill from there.
She began parroting talking points about the debate she herself released to Obama surrogate at sun up Wednesday morning prior to the debate. She had nothing new to add.
Romney had substance, counter-arguments for Obama’s points, rebuttals, and a friendly manner. Obama kept his head down at the podium and refused to make eye contact with Romney. This too is what Obama did with the economy and Libya. Obama never makes eye contact with the problems heading toward him, wishing them away. The president who has gotten a free ride from the media for nearly a decade could not keep it together Wednesday night and there was no way for the media to protect him.
Obama, at one point, interrupted Jim Lehrer and asked Lehrer to move on to a new topic. It was a brilliant metaphor for what Obama did coming into office. He looked at the economy and decided to move on to Obamacare. His whole career has been one of passing the buck, shifting blame and failing to take responsibility for tough challenges. He did the same in the presidential debate.
President Obama was ill prepared, flustered easily, and came off as petulant. At some point we should expect Clint Eastwood’s empty chair to ask Obama to take a vacation day and let it debate instead. It could surely do no worse.
I think the explanation for Obama’s performance is pretty simple. Gods in the cult of personality do not like to come off Olympus to be challenged by mere mortals. I guarantee you we are about to see the media resurrect the “Obama is the underdog” theme and, in the meantime, look for most media polls to suddenly have a D-plus 20 sample.
Romney did fantastic Wednesday night.
Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.