In the first 2012 presidential debate last night in Denver, many were anticipating seeing the stark contrast of the competing philosophies of big compassionate government versus big mean private sector within the two big political party nominees.
However, astonishingly, the contrast most on display was the work ethic difference between the Democratic candidate President Barack Obama and the Republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney.
It was evident in the first fifteen minutes; Romney came with rolled-up sleeves excited and ready to get to work. Obama embodied the impression he loves the perks of being the President of the United States but not the job which actually required more work and preparation than getting by voting present.
Romney was energized and engaged. He appeared confident and competent as a leader. His command of the facts and figures, as well as his vision for the next four years for America, was superior.
Obama was flat and academic. He appeared bored and unprepared.
Obama’s lack luster engagement was in line with a president whom has held minimum press conferences, attended minimal national security Intel briefings, refused to meet with world leaders last week at the United Nations, and rarely directly engaged Congressional members throughout his four years as president. He did not display a competent leader with a confident vision.
Romney dominated the stage and commanded the debate topic discussion. He looked directly at the moderator PBS’ Jim Lehrer and President Barack Obama throughout the ninety minutes. Romney was aggressive yet remained pleasant and in control when he corrected the president’s characterizations of his vision and policy.
In contrast, Obama looked down most of the debate. He constantly wrote notes as Romney spoke. He seemed to look to Mr. Lehrer to save him at times by moving the discussion to another topic, even asking to move on at one point.
Obama looked annoyed at times as though his four years as president had him forgetting what it was like to be interrupted, challenged, called-out, outside the presidential bubble, and without a prepared speech loaded in a teleprompter.
The split television screen of the two men was startling at times in the contrast of style. The substance of the topic discussion was even more startling at times considering the importance of the debate to each and to the American people.
Romney had a vision, a policy message, and a plan to articulate them to the American people in this debate.
Obama did not and seemed to revert to tired campaign stump talking points as a failed last resort when his memorized facts were challenged. Obama struggled to make any acceptable case for his failed focus and policies the last four years.
The Democrats have spent a lot of money defining Romney in attack ads one after another presenting him as an unacceptable alternative to Obama even if the president’s economic policies have been a failure over his first term.
Tonight Romney defined himself as not only an acceptable alternative but as a more serious and competent choice to get the country back on track.
Romney projected he was ready to get down to it and get the job done. He seemed ready to work long hours for the American people.
Obama projected he was ready to continue the pace and focus he set in his first term – a pace that has failed the unemployed, underemployed, and discouraged – a focus that has failed those without lobbyist, campaign donations, or political connections in general.
America had high hopes for Obama when he took office. Unfortunately, it has been obvious for a while to anyone who has been watching, and is not blinded by hyper-partisanship; President Obama seeks the limelight and the company of the fun celebrity crowd.
Obama enjoys situations where he is the adored one gracing you with his presence. He likes being labeled the smartest guy in the room, but in reality, he seems to be the cool guy whom finds the actual work of governing a drag.
Perhaps President Obama is living off his 2008 campaign laurels and hopes no one will notice. If so, people did notice at last night’s presidential debate – even his liberal celebrity friends and most ardent main stream media supporters noticed and lamented.
Twitter was alive during the debate with tweets wondering what the heck had happened to Obama in this debate. The newspapers and online media were full of devastating headlines for Obama claiming a direct hit by Romney on the president in this morning’s debate conclusions.
The plain assessment is Romney exceeded expectations, and Obama did not meet expectations. Many noted, including the MSM and pundits, this was Romney’s best performance in a debate to date and was possibly the best debate performance by a Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
For the average American, most important was Romney seemed ready to not accept the Congressional gridlock in Washington and to resolve it by taking it on and demanding bi-partisanship leading by example.
Romney’s experience in working successfully with a Democrat controlled legislature in Massachusetts was a stark contrast to Obama’s ineffectiveness in working successfully with a Republican controlled House and a Democrat majority Senate in D.C.
Voters were left with the feeling there would be a real change in Washington with a President Romney. They were also left with the impression there could be continued economic and foreign policy failures and a deeper partisanship divide with a continued President Obama.
One thing is for sure, the pressure is even greater now in the October 11 Vice Presidential debate for the Democrats. They cannot afford two bad debates in a row.
One bad debate performance can be spun away by supporters as a candidate having an off night. Two negative vision presentations however become an election narrative.
Vice President Biden must pick up the vision presentation after President Obama’s failure in Denver.
The GOP candidate Congressman Ryan is known to present facts and figures with clarity. He will most certainly show up to the next debate ready to work. Ryan has proven confidence in discussing budget specifics and vision.
Any Biden gaffes will not be seen as “charming or funny” this time around. After four long years of economic turmoil, Americans want substance over style. They have had the “cool guy” and the “crazy uncle.”
Now the American people need and want the semi-boring, almost geeky guys who in contrast are ready to show up for work every day of their term with rolled up sleeves and are willing to work long into each night to get the job done.
Romney and Ryan are already known as those guys. Maybe Obama and Biden can be, or maybe not. They will have to get down to business and prove they are to the American people. Maybe they will, or maybe they won’t.
Anyway you look at it, this is the contrast that now makes the remaining 2012 debates must-watch events going forward. Americans are ready for leadership who “works” and works for them.
(Photo Credit – Flickr Common)