It may not be what you think.
President Obama came to play, and came to fight.
He was prepared. He had a lot of energy. He was combative without being rude, and he repeatedly took it to Mitt Romney, who seemed to run out of gas half way through the debate.
Obama right away challenged the veracity of Romney’s answers, saying that they just weren’t true, as when Romney said he had the same position as the President on taking the auto companies into bankruptcy.
On energy policy, Romney was Sarah Palin without the wink, all but saying, “Drill, baby, drill.” He said we needed “Mr. Oil, Mr. Gas, and Mr. Coal” in the White House, and those are the three stooges who are burning the planet up.
Romney also gave a terrible answer to the Latina who asked a question about undocumented workers, whom Romney proceeded to call “illegals”—a term of great offense to many.
Obama hit Romney hard on China, pointing out that one of his companies had helped the Chinese government with tools of repression. But Obama didn’t bring up Bain and the exporting of jobs to China, which was just sitting out there.
At one point, Romney foolishly asked Obama if he’d looked at his investments lately, and Obama quickly joked that his weren’t nearly as big as Romney’s.
Two subjects that Obama had opportunities to bring up but never mentioned were abortion and preexisting conditions. Obama got as far as talking about contraceptives (and Romney—Mr. I Will Defund Planned Parenthood—magically came out for contraceptives for all!).
But Obama didn’t make the point that Romney’s vice presidential pick is against abortions even in case of rape, incest, and the health of the mother.
And while Obama defended the Affordable Care Act (and fortunately didn’t embrace the term “Obamacare” this time), he didn’t make the most persuasive case for it, which is: If you have a preexisting condition that is life threatening, you’ll be covered, and if your kid has one, your kid will be covered, too.
Obama once again genuflected to the free enterprise system as one of America’s greatest achievements, which it isn’t, and he once again boasted about “winding down” the war in Afghanistan when we still have twice as many troops there as were there the day Bush left office.
But Obama ended strongly, taking Romney on about the infamous 47% comment he had made, and making a direct pitch for viewers’ votes.
This was the Obama that many of his supporters longed to see the first time. And had they seen him the first time, this race wouldn’t even be close right now.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Romney in Denial about Lethal Lack of Health Insurance."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter