When the nation looks back on the 2012 Presidential election, the first Presidential debate at the University of Denver in Colorado might be a moment where we all look back and say collectively -- 'This was the moment where the tides turned.' President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney faced off for the first time in the general election, where the President had to defend his record against a challenger promising to be an agent of change.
With PBS's Jim Leher holding down the fort, Romney and Obama went toe to toe on issues concerning the economy, taxes, entitlement spending, and the role of the federal government in the lives of every day Americans.
The President, who has very little to defend in the way of a record, attempted to point out the positive takeaways from his achievements -- including the auto bailout, investment in education, and the interest of fairness. For Mitt Romney, he brought a command to the stage the likes of which we haven't seen in decades --- an astute ownership of facts and figures and a reckless steadfast willingness to defend his record and vision for America.
Mitt Romney brought everything back to his central campaign message -- jobs. The debate went south for the President from the outset when he tried and failed repeatedly to label Romney's tax plan as something which would draw some $5 trillion dollars from the middle class -- a claim that was refuted time and again by the former Massachusetts Governor. On the contrary, Mitt Romney parlayed each attack from the President with a clear and concise vision on how we can achieve deficit reduction without raising taxes.
The President ended up retreading his tired political campaign lines from 2008 -- invoking the previous administration time and again in trying to justify the questionable administrative decisions, lack of bi-partisanship and unpopular legislation.
From a presentation standpoint it was striking to see Mitt Romney own the stage, own the moderator, and frankly, own the President. Romney was cool, calm, collective, prepared and comfortable. His private sector experience and executive experience shone through that was easily understandable. For the President, his problem continues to be that his rhetoric met his record and left the President shell shocked and uncomfortable in trying to defend something that is fundamentally contrary to his core belief.
The moment that summed up the entire debate came when President Obama was trying to claim that companies get tax cuts for shipping jobs overseas. Mitt Romney countered beautifully when he said, “I've been in business for 25 years, I have no idea what you're talking about."
It's an understatement to say that Mitt Rommey won this debate -- the question is where do we go from here? For Barack Obama, he needs to circle the wagons and start over. He needs to change his countenance and presentation and get a hold of the facts. For Romney the momentum is large, he needs to take it to the battleground states and invest the capital gained from this debate to ultimately put him in the White House.