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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (Associated Press)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (Associated Press)

Beam: ‘We’ve got a horse race now’

Last Modified: Saturday, October 06, 2012 8:34 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

Republican nominee Mitt Romney came off presidential last week in his first debate with President Obama. The Democratic Party spin doctors can say all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact Romney scored a major victory that upset the pollsters and political experts alike.

Give credit to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was the lone voice in the wilderness. He stuck with Romney even when some of the former Massachusetts governor’s GOP congressmen were ready to run and hide from their standard-bearer.

“Wednesday night’s the restart of this campaign,” Christie said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” a week ago. “Come Thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race is going to change.”

And change it did. When Democratic strategist James Carville admitted Romney clearly won the day, you knew it had to be an extremely convincing victory.

“It looked like Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn’t want to be there,” Carville said on CNN’s post debate analysis. “The president didn’t bring his ‘A’ game.”

Gloria Borger said Romney effectively tied everything back to creating jobs.

David Gergen, who has worked for four different presidents, also gave Romney high marks.

“A week ago, people were saying this was over. We’ve got a horse race now,” Gergen said on CNN.

“Mitt Romney came to play,” he said later.

The analysts said Romney “had it all together,” “rose to the moment,” “drove the debate” and won the night based on style points and preparation.

CNN doesn’t have a reputation for playing politics down the middle, but its analysts didn’t hesitate to give Romney praise where praise was due. Six of the seven panelists gave Romney a thumbs up.

Democrats continued to harp after the debate that Romney isn’t giving voters enough details about his programs. Yes, they want more information, but it’s leadership they desperately seek and Romney gave them a taste of what it could be like.

Sure, he’s not a perfect person and he has had trouble connecting with average voters. However, he did that during the debate and has proved he knows how to get things done. 

Romney talked about being able to work with a Massachusetts Legislature made up of 87 percent Democrats to get a state health care law passed. That law is tailored to his state’s needs and serves as a model for other states, he said.

What really touched a patriotic nerve in the hearts of many Americans was Romney talking about the ideals on which this country was founded. Things like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, religious tolerance and the right of individuals to pursue their dreams. It’s a United States most of us want to live in again.

Voters also liked what he said about making the country energy independent, restoring a balanced budget, reducing the deficit, cracking down on China’s unfair trade practices, championing small businesses and cutting taxes.

Government can do better. It isn’t working, he said. And he really hit home when he said to Obama, “This election is bigger than the two of us.”

A CNN post-debate poll of registered voters said Romney won the debate by a 67 percent-to-25 percent margin. And 54 percent said they agreed with Romney’s views on a limited federal government.

Democratic campaign officials looked like deer stunned by a car’s headlights when questioned after the debate. 

David Axelrod downplayed the CNN poll, calling it “theater of the moment.” He said Romney had been practicing since June and added that the challenger always does well because he is sharing a stage with the president of the United States. 

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the only person more disappointed in the president’s performance than Obama was Axelrod.

Romney’s performance looked even better when you consider he had four fewer minutes than Obama to state his case. Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS seemed to lose track of time and control of the debate.

A great debate performance isn’t going to win this election, but it gave Romney a fresh start. He has two more debates to prove he can make a better case than Obama. 

Voters got to see a personal side of Romney many of them had never seen. And they saw a candidate who came across as knowledgeable and ready to take on the serious business of getting this country back on track.

You can be sure Obama and his campaign staff are going to be better prepared when the two meet again on Oct. 16 and Oct. 22. The president has already said the real Romney didn’t show up for the debate.

Actually, Romney supporters think the man who showed up is the Romney they knew he was but whom others hadn’t seen.

If Romney can give voters repeat performances, he can definitely turn this race around. He clearly demonstrated last week that he can hold his own when push comes to shove. However, he had better have all his ducks in a row because Obama and the Democrats are going to throw the proverbial book at him when the two meet again. 

Voters will be looking forward to Round 2.

           •••
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

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