For Obama the debate was an unmitigated disaster. It was a low energy performance by a man who seems to think he is sitting on a lead and has to play a conservative game. Obama kept looking to moderator Jim Leher to be the fact checker on Romney’s rather outrageous statement that his tax plan didn’t mean what it means. But Romney had already intimidated Leher, who effectively became the empty chair.
From a body language perspective, Obama seemed listless and disengaged, almost as if he didn’t want to be there. He kept looking down and seemed to be constantly on the defensive. Most of all his “no drama Obama” demeanor was the wrong tone to carry in the face of such aggressive attacks from Romney. If Axelrod and Plouffe advised him to abstain from attacking Romney (not one mention of 47%, Cayman Islands, Vouchercare) they made a terrible miscalculation. Even if that was the game plan, why didn’t Obama realize it wasn’t working and assume a more aggressive stance in the second half?
Now it will be up to Joe Biden to take Paul Ryan to the woodshed next week. And then Obama will have to drink a double espresso in two weeks and come into round two ready to confront Romney on every issue.