UPDATE: LINKED BY LEGAL INSURRECTION! THANKS!
UPDATE #2: LINKED BY COLD FURY! THANKS!
It seems fair to say that most of us on the right were pleasantly surprised by the result of the first Presidential debate, Wednesday evening, if nothing like so shocked as the mainstream media or the Obama fluffers at MSNBC.
In 2008, Obama got to debate John McCain. The acclaim for his campaign has always struck me as over the top in light of that fact. And on Wednesday night we saw what Obama looks like in a debate where the dessicated and ineffectual old man in the room in not his opponent but merely the moderator.
From where I'm sitting, the best thing about the outcome of the first debate is how it sets Mitt Romney up for the second debate. Like a power pitcher behind in the count, Obama is under pressure to bring the heat, but he's got to be exceedingly careful about how he does it.
Obama's most fervent partisans want to see him become much more aggressive in attacking Romney, and after seeing the reviews of his performance in the first debate, Obama is probably happy to oblige. And therein lay the danger.
The upside, from Obama's perspective, of his performance on Wednesday night, was that it kept his natural churlishness in check. He smirked, and offered other tells, but mostly you had to be looking for them in order to notice. In going after Mitt Romney aggressively, Obama risks showing Americans a side of his personality that he'd be better off hiding.
Simply put, Barack Obama is a smug prick. He is not used to being challenged, and is prone to react badly when it happens. The more effectively he conceals this, the better off he'll be, but he is now under pressure to adopt a debate posture that risks highlighting it.
In this way, the town hall format of the second debate may work to his disadvantage. Obama may be disciplined enough to refrain from ad hominem attacks on Romney directly. But will he be able to resist inserting them into answers to the voters' town hall questions? And once he goes on the attack, will he remain sufficiently self-disciplined to avoid revealing his inner Marxist?
In the first debate, Romney took the battle to Obama with great success. In the second debate, Romney needs to adapt to Obama's heightened aggression and be prepared not only to parry more attacks, but to invite certain lines of attack that can be used to make Obama seem angry, extreme, or just generally less presidential.
I predict that this is just what will happen. After the second debate, the MSNBC hosts will have gotten their wish for an Obama who much more aggressively presses the case for wealth redistribution, and government intervention in the economy.
I further predict that as the impact of this registers in the polls, they will regret getting what they had wished for so fervently.
Forecasting the outcome of the other debates is far simpler:
The Vice-Presidential debate may never take place, as the prospect of debating Paul Ryan may well cause Joe Biden to rationally decide instead to commit seppuku. And of the debate does take place, the end result is likely to be about the same as if he had: Biden's entrails scattered across the floor.
The third Presidential debate will focus on foreign policy. The Obama campaign probably preferred that when the schedule was agreed to, figuring that would be their strong suit. Life can be funny.
If the second debate goes as I expect it to, then by the third debate Obama will be back on a leash, and Romney will have a fairly easy go of it. Challengers always have the advantage of being able to assume away the problems of the real world, and even just to make things up out of whole cloth (such as JFK's assertion of a non-existent "missile gap").
But Romney won't even need to rely on that. He can just promise to stop apologizing to savages for the First Amendment, and maybe for good measure add that "If elected, I will send our ambassadors U.S. Marines instead of Chevrolet Volts."
Sometimes life is very regressive, as advantages beget additional advantages. Romney's trouncing of Obama in the first debate is one such time.