This week’s first presidential debate, much like the politics of today, was flimsy.
However, Mitt Romney came to play. And perhaps for the first time since it was clear the former Massachusetts governor would get the Republican nomination, Romney looked like he had some footing.
For weeks now, President Barack Obama has been clinging to a slim two, three, four point lead in the national polls. All the while, the debates loomed, the parties argued and partisan politics was the rule, not the exception.
And while much of that is still true, some things have changed now that debate No. 1 is behind us.
First, there will be a flurry of fact checking over the next few days. And for good reason.
Both candidates sparred over Medicare funding, cuts, taxes and tossed around enough numbers to make an accountant dizzy.
But what was more telling was how comfortable and confident Romney seemed compared to the president.
To use a sports analogy, Obama – the defending champ – didn’t play that role in any way. And the challenger Romney didn’t, either.
What got in the way of a good, healthy debate, though, was arrogance and ineffective moderating.
Obama was so off his game, he didn’t even take the easy swipes – Bain Capital, the 47 percent, Romney’s propensity for flip-flopping.
It’s like he forgot how to debate.
I would argue that neither of the candidates’ handlers had them as prepared as they could have been. Neither looked particularly presidential.
And Jim Lehrer…good Lord. I described him online as ineffective as Congress. And that is almost an insult to Congress. Lehrer is better than that. Or at least I thought he was.
He let both candidates push him around, dictate the tone and tenor of the debate. That alone made the 90 minutes challenging to watch and even more difficult to absorb.
For those really interested in somewhat worthless numbers, some 60-plus percent of those polled said Romney won the debate.
If that is enough to move the needle on a national level for pivotal swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio or Florida remains to be seen.
What will be key to watch is how Romney celebrates this debate win.
If he continues to smirk and act smug, this victory won’t last long.
He can’t get arrogant and cannot gloat in the next debate.
If anything, this performance will tighten an already unyielding presidential race.
The tide could reasonably turn if and when a candidate comes to the table with some concrete, fact-checking campaign platform ideas.
But I won’t hold my breath.