Last night's presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama mirrors the legendary 1960 Kennedy vs. Nixon debates, credited with erasing Richard M. Nixon's lead over John F. Kennedy in the race to succeed Dwight Eisenhower.
Back then, radio listeners thought articulate Nixon had won the debate while TV viewers were convinced the more telegenic JFK was the victor. Last night, those of us who live streamed the Denver debate thought Romney had defeated Obama. But when we watched the TV rerun, it was painfully obvious he had crushed him.
In a way, it was expected. Until the recent and unfortunate 47% gaffe Romney had consistently polled higher than the president on the issue of the economy (the topic of the night). While Obama has dominated in a number of other fronts (likeability, relatability, health care, foreign policy, etc.) the 23 million Americans out of work and the persistent 8% unemployment rate that Romney made sure to mention through the night have been the president's Achilles.
And just how Nixon's sweaty and uncomfortable demeanor doomed him with viewers in 1960, President Obama's vagueness, aloofness and seeming reluctance to look Romney or the audience in the eye made him the loser of the night. "Where was Obama tonight?!, cried MSNBC's Chris Matthews, as Romney quipped to a passive commander in chief: "You are entitled to your own plane and your own house but not to your own facts."
Obama was his own worst enemy last night. That's usually the case as it was with Romney's infamous 47% Boca Raton fundraiser. Perhaps the Obama team fell victim of complacency given the president's strong poll numbers leading to the debate. The point is Romney came prepared. And it showed. Obama hasn't debated in four years. And it also showed.
Even the closing statements were painful to watch. Obama's "fair shake" and "play by the same rules" narrative that inspired the 2012 DNC felt flat during the president's last sale pitch of the night. "I promise I'll keep working hard," the president said.
Romney on the other hand took advantage of his two final minutes to look assertively into the camera and convey to American voters he is every inch the successful executive he claims to be both in the private and public sectors. "I will keep our military strong and get America’s middle class working again," was his last word.