IF presidential debates were single-game elimination affairs like the new Major League Baseball playoff format, this would all be over. Mitt Romney won the first of three debates Wednesday. He won it decisively. Can he do it again?
Barack Obama was outplayed from the start. Incumbents obviously must stay on the defense because their record is on the line and Obama's economic record is hard to defend. The president's words, his body language, his face — all showed signs of a man on the run from himself. This doesn't mean he can't win another term. It does mean that Romney has started throwing strikes.
Obama did what Obama always does in extolling the federal government as the solution to a range of problems. Practically from his opening breath, he also did what he always does: invoke class envy. Our system is “skewed toward the wealthy,” he said, not one minute beyond the opening gun.
Romney was unapologetic in his resistance to raising taxes on the upper class. He was relentless on the devastation that Obama's policies have wrought on the middle class. He gave Obama no opening to attack Romney on his supposed lack of concern for the poor.
In Romney's words, the candidates offer “two very different paths leading in very different directions.” Obama's path is leading us toward a cliff. Romney wants to go the other way.
The challenger's best line involved Obama's crony capitalism that rewards his supporters in the green energy arena. The president hasn't been picking between winners and losers, Romney said. He's been picking losers.
In a debate focused on jobs, taxes and the deficit (with a lesser spotlight on health care), energy policy cracked the starting lineup. Obama had to dig oil companies for “making money every time you go to the pump.” What should they do, Mr. President? Lose money? Break even? If they were losing money, who would supply us with gasoline?