We didn't need the Long Island Medium to predict that the Sleepy-Time Obama from the Debacle in Denver would be replaced at this week's Hofstra debate with a much feistier POTUS -- or that the town hall format would lead to more verbal sparring than the locked-behind-a-podium approach. The breakout star of the event was Romney's "binders full of women" comment, an awkward turn of phrase that unleashed a bevy of tweets, Tumblr gifs, and video mashups. The top TiVo takeaway had to be Romney's epic fail as, eyebrows shooting upward, he tried to nail Obama on the words the president had used to describe the attack in Benghazi -- a dramatic moment highlighted by Candy Crowley's instant fact-check. Before the debate, I suggested that the real-time, crowd-sourced fact checking that has become a staple on Twitter should be made a standard part of the debate process. Candy's sharp memory demonstrated why it'd be so useful.
This week saw the first presidential debate. The main topic was the economy, but we heard more about Big Bird than jobs or the foreclosure crisis. Also missing: President Obama, who was more present on stage with Eastwood in Tampa than with Romney in Denver. It wasn't a bad metaphor for the last three years: one side lying about tax cuts and deficits, the other defensive and unwilling to fight for its own job-creating policies. The election narrative shifted again on Friday when the latest jobs report showed a drop in unemployment to 7.8 percent. Republicans screamed fraud, with no basis in reality. But lest we pop the champagne too soon, remember that at the present rate of 114,000 jobs added a month, it would take over a decade to reach full employment. A celebration based on such meager numbers underscores just how badly we need a real debate on the economy.
Something is not quite right with President Barack Obama. That was clear long before his passive, distracted performance here Wednesday night against Mitt Romney. The president needs to get back some form of his old magic if he hopes to secure a victory that, until the Denver debate, seemed all but inevitable, even to many of his foes. The evidence of the president's distance and distaste for the campaign is everywhere. He is invisible around Washington, a place he clearly doesn't like and where he has made few new political friends. He mailed in his acceptance speech in Charlotte, N.C., looking at the end like a man who couldn't wait to get off the stage. He has dutifully hit the campaign trail, but not with the zest or the frenzied response of 2008. And he clearly didn't master his brief for the debate when he went to ground in Las Vegas, though he did take time for a day trip to Hoover Dam. What gives?