Governor Romney today closed what might have been three most successful debates in the history of US presidential elections (I admit, not a very long one). The most successful for the challenger, that is. All three of the debates very different, but all three were highly watchable – certainly better than ‘Homeland’ and almost reaching the ’24’ status. I remember back in 2008 it was atrocious teeth-cringing, behind-the-sofa-hiding watching of ‘duels’ including a senile moderate Senator with no clue about economy and the Saviour with flowery rhetoric backed by no actions whatsoever. But HE was ‘clean and articulate’ (Harry Reid words) black and not-Republican and it was enough. Hopefully, not this time.
Last night’s third coming of Governor Romney was, at least for me, his most masterful, almost Machiavellian performance. It’s true, according to polls, Romney wiped the floor with the President in the first debate. (But what are the surveys for anyway? The best poll of the polls will come on November 6.) The first debate was not only about the Republican’s forceful performance, it was also about President Obama’s willingness to play the mop. The second debate… well, everything was against Romney in that one: ‘swing state’ of New York electorate and corresponding questions, stupid format not to forget that enormous first lady of CNN’s political commentary. And still, Romney held his own.
The third debate was at least in theory the easiest one for the President. No one has as much first hand and real time experience with foreign policy as the incumbent. He actually summed it up nicely in the second –CNN- round with his ‘angry look’ mode during the Benghazi question. So Governor Romney main task in this debate was to prevent it from becoming the one of President’s angry looks. This might have well been harmful to his standing in the eyes of the swing voters. And this was the swing voters-only debate. While Obama played it safe again, crowd-pleasing the Democratic lynching mob Romney appealed to independents with his measured answers, non-attack and praising mode. While in the second debates both candidates sometimes resembled kids in the playground, in this one Romney was the one more grown-up and statesman-like adding jokes there and then. Some of his answers on Iran and Israel were simply outstanding and unlike other commentators, I think he was fully in command. Often steering the talk to the domestic economic territory where he was simply unassailable, at least partly thanks to the Obama non-record. It didn’t matter who would ‘win’ it. Romney just needed to complete his transformation in the eyes of voters from and Evil Job-Snatcher and Husbands Killer (as portrayed in Obama’s negative ads) to rounded presidential candidate. Nowhere was his success visible more than in his brilliant and Reganesque closing speech. I lost all my doubts. There he was the best presidential candidate the Republican could have wished for in years.
It was a great journey. I must admit during the most of it I was not very impressed. Then Romney picked the right running mate in Paul Ryan and I started to think we might be onto something. I still remember blood rushing into my head in disbelief of his superb choice on a Sunday morning train to London. And then came the lukewarm convention speech and the Obama bounce. However, in the last month Mr Romney’s has finally bloomed in front of my eyes to become statesmanlike and presidential, with guts and stamina to fight but also warm and funny at times. It would be shame not to have such a great president.