Debates serve to contrast the candidates, and that was certainly the case on Wednesday, with Mitt Romney coming away on top.
The Republican presidential candidate took advantage of the opportunity to appear presidential, sure of himself, enthusiastic, and clear, while not necessarily providing details, but presenting his ideas in an orderly fashion that could be understood.
All that Romney had in his favor was precisely what President Barack Obama was lacking.
The commander-in-chief appeared uncomfortable, exhausted, at times frustrated, and unenthusiastic. He was the candidate who spoke the most, but his language seemed to get lost in labyrinths of financial and healthcare reform while mounting the difficult defense of his administration’s handling of the economy.
Without a doubt, debates tend to be easier for the opposition candidate than for the president. Romney did not hesitate to criticize the president’s work-on three occasions he even openly called the president’s statements into question. Obama never responded.
Moreover, Obama was expected to be more skilled, more in control, and have greater charisma. But that person never appeared. The Democratic presidential candidate, unlike his rival, did not take advantage of Romney’s numerous vulnerabilities as a candidate. The same vulnerabilities he personally points out at every campaign stop.
All this takes place at a time when Obama’s lead in the polls is slipping. Last Wednesday’s debate will give the Republican base a much needed jolt of enthusiasm. There is no better news for a banged up campaign that a clear victory in the first debate.
Democrats are left to wonder why the president failed to live up to expectations. They can only hope that this was just a misstep and that the president will get back on his game. But they can do very little in this regard. Obama has to face Romney alone.
Finally, voters were also winners because they had the chance to see the candidates face to face and compare them. But the campaigns know-as do the voters-that this is just the first round in a best-of-three contest.