THE BLOG
10/29/2012 10:40 am ET Updated Dec 26, 2012

The Enduring First Debate Effect: They Finally Found a White Man They Could Like

There seems to have been an enduring effect from the first presidential debate. Governor Romney was with it, seemingly reasonable, and flexible. It was not so much the atonal performance of President Obama. It was as though the American public, or a significant part of it, had "discovered" Romney and had decided he was an appealing candidate. It was as though finally they had found a white man they could vote for -- an antidote to the image of a dark-skinned man and woman occupying the White House, which causes many Americans, mostly between the coasts but not exclusively so, an underlying discomfort.

The momentum has shifted. Clearly the Obama people underestimated Romney, underestimated his talents as a debater, talents that have been honed by endless months of debates during the Republican primary season.

Much of the phrases used against Obama ("he doesn't understand America"; "he has an anti-colonial Kenyan agenda"; "he takes his political inspiration from Europe and from the socialist democrats in Europe") represent codewords aimed at exploiting the deep vein of racism in America that has been with us since the birth of the nation and before.

So: are we witnessing a "return to normalcy"? (This was the slogan of an earlier presidential campaign [1920], albeit in a different context, which was the aftermath of World War I.)