Like every other American left terrified by the previous debate -- having stared into the abyss of the likelihood of a Romney presidency -- last night I cheered the TV as the president battled back against a privileged, spoiled bully. Last night Obama did most everything he needed to do to arrest Romney's momentum and probably squeak forward to reelection.
Yet last night the president still left unsaid what he plans to do in his second term. Romney, on the other hand, trumpets a clear message of hope and of change. He was most effective last night when he ticked off the litany of economic woes and then said, "I know what it takes to make an economy work... If you elect President Obama, you know what you're going to get -- you're going to get a repeat of the last four years." This, in a nutshell, is Romney's entire campaign: He's an expert on the economy and Obama back in office would be simply more of the same. Sure, Romney lost the debate, but he still accomplished reinforcing these twin pillars of his campaign.
It doesn't matter that Romney's pillars are made of unreinforced bullshit. Romney knows how to put people out of work, not in it. If he's such a great businessman why was he dead wrong about GM? Asking Romney to shepherd your economy would be like asking Jack Kevorkian to be your primary care physician. The president touched on this early on but Romney was so focused on his "I've run businesses, I've balanced budgets so trust me to run the U.S.," that those balloons needed to be pierced each and every time they floated upward.
Romney's second pillar, that an Obama reelection promises more of the same malaise, is harder for the president to refute. His closing statement from the first debate was the single-most dispiriting speech I've ever heard the president give. It still rattles because the answer to that central question, "What happens November 7th?," the administration has yet to communicate.
What's especially maddening is that the answers are on Obama's website, they merely need to be uttered coherently.
Something like this:
Two weeks before I was even elected, Rush Limbaugh was rooting for the failure of my administration and the entire body of Republican elected officials jumped on his cynical bandwagon. They are on record saying their goal was not that America succeeds but that my administration fail. They are so dangerously extreme they even held hostage our nation's credit rating and threaten to do it again. Despite their continued sabotage, America is moving forward. Jobs are coming back. Housing is coming back. The tunnel is long but we are starting to see the light. My reelection means their dangerous, extreme agenda fails, and reasonable Republicans will come out of the shadows and start doing their job again. Or you, the people, will send them packing.
I put a jobs bill before Congress that would have already added hundreds of thousands of jobs to our recovering economy. They shot it down. On day one of my second administration I'm sending it back up and not giving up till it passes.
Then he should tick off the litany of second-term promises he's made here and there but continues to fail to package: 100,000 new teachers, leading the world in college graduates by 2020, energy independence, etc. Finally closing with:
A lot of my first four years have been spent cleaning up the mess created by exactly the same policies Romney is trying to repackage and resell today. If you give me the chance, my next four will be spent not just getting us out, but getting up. Getting America moving again, soaring again, to a future brighter than we've ever known. The future is coming, and with your help, we'll be ready for it.