As even former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw acknowledged today, liberal journalists were loaded and ready to pronounce this election over and Romney’s campaign dead after the first debate: “If it had been Romney performing like the president last night, it would have been over.” But the beating Obama received last night was so complete that virtually no one (the New York Times excepted, as usual) denied it.
But how did they report Obama lost? Therein lies the rub: they -- as well as Democratic operatives -- are pushing the spin that this was all about style and presentation. Obama was "flat," "lackluster," "not himself," and “not firing on all cylinders.” In other words, Obama wasn't Obama last night. Some are going further, pushing the narrative that Romney was somehow mean-spirited and even deceptive in his presentation.
This analysis denies reality. Obama lost on style, to be sure. More importantly, much more importantly, he lost on content. Romney crushed him. For the first time in his political career Obama a) had to defend his record and b) had no one running interference on his behalf. Romney as challenger had a seemingly endless list of particulars to choose from and did so in a devastating manner. That, that was the damage done to Obama.
The media's refusal to focus on this all-important element is the ultimate spin control, perhaps a form of spin control heretofore unknown: spin by omission. Like so many news reports they've refused to run this year if they hurt the re-elect Obama narrative, now they're refusing to discuss the real takeaway from last night's debate because it is devastating to the incumbent.
Instead it's all about style, and that "lackluster" performance. To what end? Obama will come out in the next debate and throw some roundhouses. It doesn't matter if they don't connect. It doesn't matter if they're below the belt. It doesn't matter if Romney counter-punches and connects. When it's all over the media spin will be immediate. "He's back!" "Obama regained his stride!" "Obama back in control!" "On top of his game!"
That script is already written. Bank on it.