Last week’s debate exposed what everyone already knew: President Obama is extremely vulnerable in the 2012 election. The liberal media and curiously imbalanced polls did their best to portray a contest that was over before it started, with Barack cruising to an easy re-election. The context behind this narrative never confirmed what voters were told to believe. With the economy in the tank, millions giving up hope of finding jobs and the nation facing down a looming double-dip recession, it should be almost impossible for the incumbent president to win a second term.
The missing piece to the electoral puzzle was whether Republicans were going to field an opponent capable of beating the combined campaign power of overwhelming media support for Democrats, the dirty Chicago political machine and the benefits enjoyed by a candidate already in the White House. All the unwilling taxpayer contributions to the Obama re-election – such as the use of Air Force One for campaigning, the federal bureaucracy’s manipulation of economic data, and the president’s ability to get primetime television coverage for any propaganda he wants to peddle – shouldn’t be misunderestimated. Of all these advantages, the weapon that most seriously threatens elephants with extinction is media bias. Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden offer up factually incorrect statements, inconsistent arguments and just plain stupid bloopers on a regular basis that attract little of no press coverage while the smallest hiccup by Republicans is news for a week. This media drumbeat manufactures an incorrect impression of incompetence that can doom a candidacy.
GOP nominee Mitt Romney turned the tables with his drubbing of Mr. Obama in the first presidential debate because the Republican refused to let the Democrat hide from his record when 67 million Americans were tuned in. That Pew shows 66 percent of viewers declared Mr. Romney the winner and 67 percent backed Mr. Romney’s performance in a CNN poll reveal how lopsided that contest was and how successful the challenger and his campaign have been at ignoring the media noise and concentrating on shifting momentum to their advantage. As Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee and Mr. Romney’s former primary competitor, described it: If the debate had been a boxing match, the fight would have been stopped.
The victory was so thorough because Mr. Romney focused on the fact that Mr. Obama has had a full term in the Oval Office and has failed to turn the country around. Americans are much worse off than they were four years ago, which is the result of backward Obama policies. Mr. Obama keeps saying what he will do in the next four years. Unfortunately for his prospects in November, the president already has a history of failure Mr. Romney can detail in debates and on the stump. That’s why the GOP standard-bearer is now ahead in most polls by as many as 5 points.
Debates usually aren’t decisive in presidential elections. Most campaign historians point to the 1960 showdown between then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John Kennedy – the first-ever televised debate – as the last time momentum shifted decisively after two nominees duked it out in front of the cameras. Mr. Romney’s Oct. 3 pummeling of Mr. Obama promises to play a similar role in the outcome on Election Day 2012.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, 2011).