You would think we had just been witness to the second Hindenburg disaster, the way the political establishment has carried on about Barack Obama's less-than-stellar performance in last week's presidential debate against Mitt Romney. Obama was relatively passive in responding to Romney's manic jabs at his record; with Romney engaging, as Obama supporters saw it, in blatant distortions of facts and even outright lies. Throughout the debate, flabbergasted Obama supporters kept yelling, "Are you gonna take that from him!?"-- and they came away shell-shocked by the fact that he did.
That Was Then, This is Now
In the days leading up to the debate, political analysts and even supporters themselves had written Romney off, convinced he could not hold his own against a superior mind like Obama. They had forgotten his respectable performances against a fiery and feisty Newt Gingrich during the GOP primaries. Meanwhile, the more level-headed analysts pointed to the long history of presidential debates, and the fact that in only a very few occasions did it really appear to radically change the course of the race. So regardless of the outcome, they weren't expecting this one to impact the race that much.
After the debate, all hell broke loose. And it hasn't been pretty since. Wailing Obama supporters descended into self-flagellation and clawing at their flesh in preparation for the end of the world, while jubilant Romney fans pumped their fists and celebrated victory like rioting San Francisco fans after the Giants won the World Series in 2010.
And all the analysts babbled incoherently, fearing that they'd been proven wrong about Romney and about the polls. Romney shined, Obama was dull. Polls showed Romney getting a bump from his performance while Obama's lead slipped perilously. Now, a Pew Research Center poll shows that Romney no longer trails Obama, while an ABC News/Washington Post poll shows him earning the highest popularity rating since he entered the race. (The same poll shows that Obama too has attained his highest popularity rating of the season and is still more popular than Romney, but that's small comfort to his supporters.)
A rejuvenated Romney -- his opponent apparently against the ropes -- now flails away, going for the knockout punch. Obama, duly humbled by his proven vulnerability, hunkers down and maps out his strategy, looking to retake control of the race.
Biden His Time
Obama supporters now pin their hopes on Joe Biden to get them back in the game in his first vice presidential debate against Paul Ryan this week. But he is "gaffe prone," analysts point out, while Ryan is an unknown factor, as he has never debated on the national stage. He could get nervous, as he did in the initial minutes of his Republican National Convention acceptance speech. So no one is going to stick their neck out to predict the outcome.
Yet all the clues are there to predict the outcome. Biden will win this one. He knows how to rise to the occasion, as he did against a volatile and loaded weapon like Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, Ryan continues to flub the answers when challenged about the glaring contrasts between his own conservative record and that of Romney's more liberal one -- and every disingenuous response generates more distrust among his base of conservatives and pro-life supporters. And with Romney just declaring that he will not actively pursue any abortion-related legislation, if elected, Ryan suddenly has a lot of 'splaining to do, considering that he has always aggressively pursued an anti-abortion path and voted in supported of every single such legislation that crossed his desk.
So Obama supporters can calm down. Biden will do his job and Obama will then take over. Regarding Obama's first debate, cut him some slack. He's human, after all. He is entitled to stumble once in a while. But he's proven a quick learner and a relentless and formidable opponent, as he was against an even more ferocious political rival than Romney during the Democratic primaries four years ago, Hillary Clinton. Once on his feet, Obama's going to go the distance and win this one. So stop your sobbing.