Two things happened in this debate. Romney had the energy and focus, a long series of arguments packed and tight to dish out in the debate. He didn’t get distracted. He had a game plan he stuck to. What struck me a lot of times through the debate was that Obama seemed pained. He didn’t seem happy. And people like seeing happy people.
President Obama almost seemed like he came to have a discussion. But debates like these aren’t discussions. You come in knowing what you’re going to say. And you find ways to say it. That’s what Romney did.
Romney’s focus though came at the cost of a few key things.
He basically tossed aside his own tax plan or said he would if his numbers didn’t add up. But then he insisted that he could find enough loopholes to close to afford a $5 trillion tax cut for upper income earners. These are more numbers on the table. That’s really what most of the debate was about — budget numbers. Romney insisted with a straight face that up was down.
The Obama team isn’t going to try to get into a fight about whether their guy was on his game. There’s no point. (This is what I meant a couple days ago when I said Obama is not a great debater. Not a great night. But I’ve never seen him great at debating.) What I fully expect, what they’ll do if they’re smart is go full court press on Romney’s numbers and press for details about his budget plan.
The numbers simply don’t add up. Over a few news cycles that can build up really fast. He says he’ll push massive upper income tax cuts and those have to come at the cost of much higher deficits or big tax hikes for middle income people. His campaign agenda is based on a massive deception.
That’s the vulnerability Romney brings out of this debate. And it may be bigger than people realize.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.