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Mr. Obama was meekly forced to acknowledge that “over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up.”

Mr. Romney also used the health care issue to promote his ability to reach across the aisle to get things done, pointing out that Mr. Obama failed to do that with Congress. No Republican voted for Obamacare. “I think something this big, this important has to be done on a bipartisan basis. And we have to have a president who can reach across the aisle,” he said in his strongest bid yet to reach out to independent and swing voters who are fed up with a dysfunctional Congress that can’t seem to pass anything to get the country back on the right track.

For 90 riveting minutes on nationwide television, seen by an estimated 60 million Americans, the president couldn’t make this election about abortion, Mr. Romney’s bank accounts or how much he pays in taxes — issues that have nothing to do with the problems facing our country and its economic future.

Instead, the debate was focused on the issue that Mr. Obama dreads most: a bed-ridden economy that has grown increasingly weaker under his inept, anti-investment, anti-growth, anti-job policies.

Throughout the slugfest, Mr. Romney landed one punch after another while Mr. Obama seemed to be playing rope-a-dope and was unable to respond with any effective blows.

Body language also worked against Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney looked directly at him on every point he made, as Mr. Obama looked down at the lectern and appeared uncomfortable.

“The American people saw the difference between a teacher and student,” said former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Mr. Romney was teaching economics 101, but Mr. Obama still doesn’t get it.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.