For the most part, I like Barack Obama. I went into last Wednesday's debate between the president and Republican nominee Mitt Romney with high hopes that the former would summon the deft communications skills that carried him into the Oval Office four years ago.
But clearly, he did not.
Instead of projecting strength, conviction and authority, Mr. Obama came across as weak, meandering and even unsure of the soundness of his own plan to return this country to prosperity. Wilting alongside Mr. Romney, the president looked like a cocky schoolboy who chose to forgo preparing for an oral exam because he believed he was smarter than his examiner.
Mr. Romney, on the other hand, showed up wanting — not expecting — to win. Though his propensity for serial smirking, employing fuzzy math, citing even fuzzier “facts” and speaking over debate moderator Jim Lehrer was more than a little annoying, he clearly rose to the occasion. Not only did he show up ready for a fight, Mr. Romney came across as presidential — far more presidential than Mr. Obama, who was sullen through much of the 90-minute debate.
In terms of content, Mr. Romney's argument for lowering taxes to reduce the deficit and spur economic growth was both passionate and well-reasoned. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, seemed professorial — if not condescending — as he pressed his case for a more “balanced” approach, which means higher tax rates and spending cuts. Mr. Romney undercut that case by pointing out that higher taxes would impede job creation — the lack of which may turn out to be the Achilles' heel of Mr. Obama's bid for a second term.
Among advisers, Mr. Romney no doubt scored big-time points for saying he would “repeal and replace” the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 if elected president. The expansive bill, of course, was the catalyst for a number of changes and proposed changes affecting advisers, including a push to establish a self-regulatory organization for investment advisers, as well as a move to bolster state regulation of advisers.
Issues aside, the highlight of the debate was that I did not have to sit through the entire broadcast to hear commentary and reaction, especially from loudmouthed television pundits. Thanks to Twitter, I had immediate access to real-time commentary from real people — some of it quite hilarious.
When Mr. Romney said that if elected president, he would pull the plug on the federal government's subsidy to PBS — even though he likes Big Bird — the tweets came rolling in.
“Gay marriage up next, Bert and Ernie trembling at what Mitt Romney may say,” tweeted New York-based adviser Josh Brown, also known as @ReformedBroker.
And when the two candidates clashed on Medicare, Carolyn McClanahan, a financial planner and physician in Jacksonville, Fla., who tweets as @CarolynMcC, wrote: “I hate this Medicare debate — both GOP and DEM have it wrong. We need to cut waste and ration unnecessary care.”
No doubt, Mr. Romney picked up a lot of votes last week, and no doubt, Mr. Obama is a lot less sure that his re-election is a slam-dunk.
The best thing Mr. Obama can do is to resolve to fight back harder during the next two presidential debates. If he doesn't, he's going to be looking for a job — like 23 million other Americans are right now.