Kathleen Parker: Mitt Romney scores a knockout in Denver

Published: October 8, 2012
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The morning brought bad reviews, but given Obama's now-legendary isolation from any but his tight circle of confidantes, it isn't clear he is aware of them. Instead, he was out stumping and trumpeting as though he had left the arena victorious. Standing the next day in his comfort zone before 30,000 fans, he wondered who that man had been — that Romney guy who showed up at the debate.

In fact, the Romney who appeared in Denver to duke it out with the president is the one supporters once knew. It was the most recent Romney — the awkward, gaffe-prone Romney — who now seemed the stranger. Friends and close associates talking among themselves had been wondering what happened to their Romney — the smart, overachieving businessman who was never at a loss for solutions.

Mitt's back

He's back. The dog is off the roof. Likability is now moot. And likability, it turns out, isn't about a winning smile or a cross-court shot. It's about competence. Romney may not be able to perform the miracles he promises. Most presidents, once in office, discover that doing is harder than saying. But Wednesday night he conveyed a depth of knowledge as well as a level of confidence that is infectious.

Obama gave rebuttals that failed to convince.

Friday's jobs report, putting unemployment below 8 percent for the first time since Obama was inaugurated, no doubt put some spring back in his step and may have stolen some of Romney's fire. But what is clear is the game is by no measure over.

Before the debate Wednesday, Americans by 2-1 believed that Obama would secure a second term. Yet the fact that 67.2 million people tuned in to the debate suggests a higher level of interest than a fait accompli would indicate. According to Nielsen, the TV ratings company, Obama vs. Romney viewership was up 28 percent from the first presidential debate four years ago. The largest audience in 2008 came with the second debate at 63.2 million viewers.

At this point, with the new jobs numbers following on the impressions of the first debate, as Schmuhl puts it, “reality and mediality converge.”

Which is to say, anything could happen and all bets are off. Game on.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP