Mitt Romney won Round 1 decisively. Wednesday’s presidential debate marked the beginning of the end for President Obama. His Republican challenger was articulate, polished, substantive and on the offensive. More importantly, Mr. Romney achieved the one goal he needed to: He looked presidential. In fact, as the night wore on, it was Mr. Obama who appeared diminished, demoralized and defeated. In contrast to the president, Mr. Romney came across as a competent, experienced chief executive who is capable of governing. It was the teacher versus the student, the adult versus the adolescent, the capitalist versus the socialist.
Mr. Obama’s drubbing should come as no surprise. For four years, he has been propped up by his media allies. Without a teleprompter, he looked amateurish and — at times — lost. The debate revealed Mr. Obama’s central weakness: He’s out of his depth. Leaving ideology aside, Mr. Obama is the least-qualified person to occupy the White House in living memory. He spent years as a “community organizer” — essentially, a glorified activist. His stints as an Illinois state senator and U.S. senator were brief and unimpressive. His record was thin. Regardless, the media establishment sold him as the most brilliant leader since President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They dissembled.
That giant fib was finally exposed at the debate. As Mr. Obama mumbled and stumbled, Mr. Romney exuded confidence and demonstrated a command of the facts. He articulated a pro-growth, tax-cutting agenda. On almost every issue — Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial reform and deficit spending — Mr. Romney was right and Mr. Obama wrong. The former Massachusetts governor showed that Mr. Obama’s statist policies have not only failed but are suffocating the private sector. Obamacare is a multitrillion-dollar entitlement monstrosity America cannot afford, which imposes massive costs on businesses. Dodd-Frank is squeezing many regional and small banks, preventing entrepreneurs from borrowing and drying up much-needed investment capital. Mr. Obama’s skyrocketing deficits threaten our very economic security.
Mr. Romney demolished the Obama team’s seminal campaign narrative: class warfare. At its heart is the repeated — and false — claim that Mr. Romney will raise taxes on middle-class families by more than $2,000 to pay for “huge tax cuts” for “the wealthy.” Mr. Obama’s strategy has been simple and crude: Paint Mr. Romney as a ruthless, greedy tycoon — the second coming of Gordon Gekko. This caricature has come back to haunt the Obama campaign. Instead, voters saw a GOP candidate who champions sweeping tax reform that lowers rates for everyone, but will get rid of most deductions and carve-outs — the very items frequently exploited by corporations and upper-income earners. Revamping the tax code will unleash growth, make America more competitive and jump-start job creation. Rather than being a Bain Capital corporate raider, Mr. Romney showed himself to be a brainy economic manager who understands that free-market capitalism is the greatest anti-poverty program ever invented.
In the face of Mr. Obama’s poor performance, liberals are blaming the debate’s moderator, Public Broadcast Service host Jim Lehrer. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews says Mr. Lehrer should have challenged Mr. Romney more — in other words, deliberately aid and abet the president. On his own network, Current TV, former Vice President Al Gore — I could not make this up — said Denver’s high “altitude” was responsible for Mr. Obama’s lethargic responses. Apparently, the thin air did the president in. The left is doing what it always does: Blame everything — and everyone — but itself for liberalism’s failures.
The problem is not the moderator, the format or the altitude. It’s the president, especially his disastrous socialist policies. He lost because he has no record to run on. For more than three years, unemployment has remained at more than 8 percent. Inflation is rising. Gas prices have soared. He has amassed trillion-dollar-plus deficits every year — and still the economy remains anemic. In fact, growth is slowing to a meager 1.5 percent. We are on the verge of a major double-dip recession. His administration has accumulated nearly $6 trillion in debt. The national debt stands at $16 trillion. We are now the most indebted nation in history. Under his budget proposals, the administration plans to add at least another $6 trillion to the debt. By his own future spending projections, Mr. Obama will push America off the fiscal cliff. We are heading toward Greece or Spain — a European-style basket case. Mr. Obama’s legacy is one of economic ruin and looming national bankruptcy. All Mr. Romney had to do was point out the obvious. This is why he won — and won big.
Mr. Obama’s team believes there is still time to turn the momentum around. The media is spinning that the foreign policy debate will showcase the president’s strengths. They are deluding themselves. Libyagate, the murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the rise of the Muslim Brothers, Iran, Syria, the failed “reset” with Russia — other than the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama has presided over a series of foreign policy debacles. Mr. Romney will rightly paint him as the second coming of Jimmy Carter.
The Obama regime is imploding — it is crumbling under the crushing weight of its own incompetence. The president has been unmasked. After Wednesday night’s debate, he even looked defeated — pale, tired and shaken. He is exiting the political stage not with a bang but a whimper. It is dawning on him: He will lose in November. He has met his match in Mr. Romney.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and host of “The Kuhner Report” on AM-680 WRKO (www.wrko.com) in Boston.