Romney outperforms Obama in Denver debate

If Mitt Romney’s performance in Denver was any indication of what to expect in the upcoming debates, President Barack Obama has some improving to do.

It was General George S. Patton who once said, “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.” Apparently Romney got the memo. Obama didn’t.

After the debate, political pundits from Chris Matthews to conservative author Joel Pollak agreed: Romney showed up with a strong message and he didn’t hesitate to explain, interrupt, correct, and otherwise fight his way through the entire program to get his point across.

Romney was not flawless, however – in many ways he left a lot to be desired. He lacked important details on his economic plan and struggled to appear consistent on the myriad of stances he’s held in the past. There was also an awkward Sesame Street reference. “I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too,” Romney said, at one point to PBS moderator Jim Lehrer.

But it was the lack of energy on Obama’s part that tipped the debate in his opponent’s favor. The president’s persona appeared detached and tired. So tired, there was some speculation by former Vice President Al Gore about whether or not Obama was sick during the event.

It was a bizarre experience watching Obama, the president of the United States, the man who inspired millions of voters and had one of the strongest presidential campaigns in American history, not even attempt to defend himself.

Even more odd was the fact that in one of the few instances Obama did become animated and fight back, it was directed at Lehrer, not Romney. As the president was speaking about health insurance, Lehrer cut in, “Two minutes. Two minutes is up, sir.” Obama glared at Lehrer before jabbing his finger in the air and snapping, “No, I think I had five seconds before you interrupted me.”

It was a brief but visibly flustered reaction from the Commander-in-Chief.

Romney, on the other hand, who had been interrupted numerous times by Lehrer, remained unshaken. “It’s fun isn’t it?” Romney quipped at one point after being cut off by the moderator.

Those two exchanges highlight in a nutshell how differently the candidates composed themselves: an energetic and cheerful Romney juxtaposed with a tired president who spent more time gazing down at his lectern than addressing his opponent.

Obama supporters did not hold back their frustrations over the president’s performance. “Is Bill Clinton coming in to sub for the next quarter? Oh! Wake up! Attack! That is not john McCain over on that podium!” tweeted acclaimed documentary director Michael Moore during the debate.

James Carville, campaign adviser to former president Bill Clinton, also acknowledged the disparity between the two candidates. “President Obama came in, he wanted to have a conversation. It takes two people to have a conversation. Mitt Romney came in with a chainsaw. He’s trying to talk to a chainsaw.”

Wednesday night was a success for Romney and a dismal failure for Obama. The viewer polls conducted by CNN confirmed this. But republicans should not rejoice just yet, however, as the race is by no means over. There are still two more debates to be held, and plenty of time for President Obama to get his act together and make a comeback.

Expect Obama to hammer away on Romney’s vagueness and sparse economic details next round. Romney will likely attempt to keep his momentum going and refine the specifics of his plans.

For now, both contenders must sit back and watch their vice president nominees spar over foreign and domestic policy on Oct. 11.

Photo courtesy of University of Denver flickr.