Mitt Romney won the debate tonight. A lot of observers felt he needed some kind of great zinger or memorable moment in order to prevail. I disagree. The Democrats have spent months overplaying their hand by painting Romney as some kind of greedy, capitalist monster. Millions tuned in to see a very intelligent man who knows his business. He probably looked a lot better than voters expected, especially those programmed to believe that Republican candidates are dull-witted and unable to handle policy detail.
Though Romney did not have a killing stroke, he came close by proposing a budgetary test that has the potential to stick. He would ask himself if each program is so important that it justifies borrowing the money from China. A nice reminder of the profligacy of the federal government. He also encouraged young voters to see themselves as the captives of the debt the administration has been piling up. Indeed, with all the talk of redistribution, the worst kind is that which impoverishes the future of the young to pay for a lack of discipline now.
Maybe the best moment came late in the evening. Asked about the role of government, President Obama invoked his “Life of Julia” helping hand vision of government as the constant life companion. Mitt Romney instead spoke of our founding documents and what I think is a truer idea of what government is for, which is to protect life and liberty. The Tea Partiers who have gritted their teeth with Romney had to like that.
Mitt Romney wins by a decision. No knockout, but a definite overperform. The president will come back strong in the next round. But it is clear that Governor Romney will be capable of meeting a charge.