The consensus among media commentators has been that Mitt Romney won overwhelmingly last night's debate with Barack Obama. Yet in the cold hard light of today, there is a new and more accurate reality -- namely that, yes, Romney won on style, but he lost badly to Obama on substance.
Yes, Romney came off as the aggressor, needling the president, claiming that all of his policies were wrong-headed, promoting his ideological fixed positions -- for example, that we should hand most Federal programs back to the states or give huge tax cuts to the wealthy, etc.
But what has really come clear the day after is that Romney is behaving no differently than he has during his entire campaign, namely, taking a sweeping array of different and contradictory positions that collectively they leave you breathless -- and, he apparently believes, he will get away with it as long as he talks a good game.
At one point, for example, he asserted his "secret" health plan would cover preexisting conditions. But in the same breath he also said he opposed the Obamacare's individual mandate. Well, you cannot cover preexisting conditions without the individual mandate.
He has made this same promise before in the campaign and his spokesman has had to issue corrective statements, conceding that only those people already enrolled in health plans get such coverage. These are Romney's shaggy dog stories.
Meantime, Obama reiterated substantive positions on a number of legitimate policies for the country's future: his jobs bill, his desire to invest in infrastructure, his willingness to spend taxpayer dollars for education, his energy plans, his support of America's social programs, his wish to revise the tax code, his intention of dropping the Bush tax cuts for people earning over $250,000, and so on.
Obama won on the substance -- and in a debate that, is what people want to hear.
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