Obama the Underdog

Before last night’s debate, President Obama was the frontrunner. Polls in some swing states showed him as much as 8 points ahead, his victory all but a foregone conclusion.  The press was getting bored and antsy. Collectively, we suffered from EFS, Election Fatigue Syndrome, the result of too much exposure to too many politicians over too long a period of time. But thanks to both the winning performance of Mitt Romney and the lackluster one by President Obama, the press has a new story to tell. With 33 days to go, the incumbent President Barack Obama will now become the underdog. And like “Underdog”, the cartoon character with the great theme song, President Obama will emerge victorious in the end.

Mitt Romney may not have realized this, but in delivering the debate performance of his career, Mitt actually handed President Obama the ammunition Obama needed to win this campaign. Complacent and self-satisfied, President Obama and the democrats have not done their job. They have not made their case to the American people as to why they deserve another four more years. They have not told us specifically what they will do to relieve historic rates of food stamp dependence, unemployment benefits and gas prices. For all the Democrat’s talk of helping the middle class, Romney got those facts right, and they sting- hurting the middle class most of all. So why do I conclude that Underdog will win?

For one thing, President Obama is a master competitor. He may be professorial and disengaged on a debate lectern, but watch him on a basketball court, a golf course or at a political rally. The man likes to win. The next debate format will give Obama a distinct advantage, allowing him to speak directly to us “regular folks” in a town hall format in which the questions are directly posed from the audience.  Since we average people are doing the asking, he and Mr. Romney are likely to have to answer questions about immigration policy, reproductive rights, and gay marriage, issues that have a huge impact on ordinary people but were strangely absent from the discussion last night. Watch the President come out swinging as he defends the civil rights of undocumented children, gay people and women. The crowd will be eating out of his hand.

The two Davids, Axelrod and Plouffe, will use this as an opportunity to re-energize their base, which is now afraid they could actually lose this election.  Core constituencies will turn out to vote, no longer able to assume President Obama will win without them.  My own mother called me this morning in a panic, wanting to volunteer for the Obama campaign.  And she’s in a swing state, so her vote really, really counts.

The conventional wisdom said that Mitt Romney had to win last night’s debate to win in November. But by winning so masterfully in one night, Mitt Romney dealt himself a losing blow in the end.  Watch the new narrative of the piling-on press- See the neck and neck polls! Hear the interviews with rank and file Republicans, now suddenly excited to vote! In an ironic twist, Mitt Romney has now cast one of the most likable presidents ever to occupy the Oval Office as the official Underdog of this race.  Have you seen the cartoon?  Underdog always wins.

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