Romney Surges Back to Life in Debate

How many times in this election season has Mitt Romney been considered on the brink of losing the game? And how many times has he come back to reclaim the momentum for his presidential candidacy?

So many times that those who were writing off his presidential chances over the past couple of weeks must be regretting the prematurity of their Romney obituaries this morning.

They should have known better. Romney was the Comeback Kid in the Republican primaries, and is making a bid to be the same in the general election.

Romney prevailed last night on a stage no one really believed he would command. Particularly not against an opponent as eloquent as President Barack Obama.

Romney was confident and prepared. He came out charging, and got stronger as the debate wore on. He appeared as if he wanted the night to never end.

By comparison, Obama seemed like a student who skipped his reading assignments and showed up for class unaware there was a test.

The president seemed tired. He lacked passion and energy. He didn’t seem to be having any fun from the very beginning of the night in Denver.

He often came across as annoyed, and at times even churlish when responding to Romney. He rarely looked at his opponent

Romney, the supposed wooden one, was animated and in charge. He confronted the president face on.

He did the things he needed to do in this debate, and then some.

He continually fact-checked Obama, calling him out for distorting the Republican’s plans for taxes and Medicare. “You’re entitled to a house and a plane, but not your own facts,” Romney said in one of the most re-tweeted lines of the night. The president lacked an effective counter-punch in nearly every instance.

Romney also defined his own objectives clearly and with confidence. He came loaded with facts. At one point, he countered Obama’s complaints about subsidies for big oil by reminding him he gave $90 billion in wasted subsidies to green energy.

Romney effectively reminded viewers of the Obama policies that haven’t worked, and connected them to the weak economic recovery.

Obama, on the other hand, invoked the presidential record of Bill Clinton more than he did his own. He once again dragged out the tired bogeymen of Big Oil and Big Insurance, and, of course, blamed Bush.

It all sounded so four years ago.

What Obama didn’t bring were any fresh ideas.

Nor did he offer a credible defense of his own policies.

He tried out his new campaign slogan of “Economic Patriotism,” but didn’t define what that means, leaving voters to assume he is asking them to sacrifice more, and longer.

Romney exploited that weakness, painting a picture of an economy that can be fixed, and in relatively short order, with tax and regulatory reform. He promised to begin creating jobs and prosperity immediately. That’s what America wants to hear.

For a guy who’s sat in the Oval Office for four years, Obama lacked the confidence that should come with experience. He remained on defense for most of the night.

He made a very weak case for his claim that the economy is in better shape than it was four years ago, and offered no clue as to what he would do differently in the next four.

Obama seemed overly committed to staying a course that a majority of Americans — even the ones who say they’ll vote for him — believe is taking the country in the wrong direction.

Romney pushed the attack at times too close to the point of bullying, and needs to check that in upcoming debates.

He also talks beyond his point too often, and would benefit from a better sense of timing.

But he has to be pleased with his performance last night. And the obituary writers are surely looking for a new story line.

Romney has made this a horse race again.

(Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The Michigan View. Originally posted on The Michigan View.)