Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

October 9, 2012

The Mitt we've been waiting for

When during the past few weeks people favorable to Mitt Romney have said it all comes down to him, it's usually been with a sense of foreboding.

During the first debate, though, Romney had his best moment of the campaign when it all depended on him.

He stood on the stage with the president of the United States and not only won on substance, but won on optics, demeanor, and emotion. He flat-out won.

Romney showed a few key things in an unfiltered format much more persuasive than any 30-second ad: He's up to the job, he's not a monster, and his program makes a lot of sense.

Romney had an answer for everything the president said, partly because the president relied on tired riffs from the campaign trail that don't sound nearly as good without an adoring audience looking for any excuse to laugh or applaud. It's hard to imagine a better point-by-point argument than Romney made throughout the debate, when he seemed less a former management consultant than a former litigator.

It's not often a president of the United States has someone stand several yards away, look directly at him, and contradict everything he says. It can't be a pleasant experience. But all President Barack Obama could do was grimace and take it.

At times, he seemed to fear confrontation with Romney.

"The president is at liberty," Woodrow Wilson said, "both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can."

Obama looked small. Someone who knew absolutely nothing going in - a pretty good definition of an undecided voter, unfortunately - might have guessed that Romney was the incumbent president.

The debate played to a few of his natural strengths. One, he has seemed confident and presidential almost from the day he stepped on the natural stage six years ago. Two, what was often said of Barack Obama in 2008, that he had a "first-class temperament," definitely applies to Romney. He's cheerful and unflappable to a fault. Three, he has no problem expressing himself.

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