NOTE: this column was originally published at MSNBC.COM on 10/17/12.
Ok, so you know how you hear something and you have to do a double-take?
Well, that’s how I felt at the beginning, middle and conclusion of this debate…literally stunned. And probably not for the reasons you think.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in the Green Room at CNBC in New Jersey with Jennifer Rubin, the right-wing Op-Ed columnist with the Washington Post. This was right after the Libya tragedy had taken place and we were both talking about the “political sea legs” of it.
While it was early in this tragic story, we both thought it could turn out badly for President Obama and for the last few weeks, Jennifer was right.
Clearly the President was ready to tackle this issue tonight and he just waited for Governor Romney to bring it up. It was, in two words, a game changer. “Get the transcript” was as calculated and disarming as anything I’ve ever seen in a debate in my adult life. It was like watching Romney walk up to the President and let him slap him across the face in Nassau County, NY. Stunning.
Prior to that part of the debate, I was prepared to say Obama was back “on his game.” He executed a new debate plan and almost to a person, every Republican I’ve talked to post-debate says Obama handed Romney his lunch. After that exchange, there was simply no turning back for Obama.
All of that is fine for the Democratic base but did President Obama do what I wanted him to do? I wanted him to lay out his vision for the next four years to the women in this country and correct Romney when needed. He absolutely succeeded on the latter and mostly succeeded on the former.
The President also lucked into something remarkable: “Binders Full of Women.”
When Governor Romney said he had “binders full of women” for cabinet positions as the chief executive of Massachusetts, my jaw dropped to the floor. Ten years from tonight, when we are playing the historical gaffes of debates, this will be included. It was insensitive, it was callous, it was a turn-off to those very same women I speak of above. It was certainly offensive to me.
The immigration portion of the debate was fantastic. It laid out two very different visions for a subject that matters to many American, both Latino and not. Sadly, we are now three debates down with one left to go and the issue of gay civil rights has yet to be broached.
This is a sad statement, considering the next debate will focus exclusively on foreign relations and the chances of civil rights won’t come up.
I called on the President to have that “gut check moment” and he did it. His appeal to women was widespread and he showed empathy, especially when talking about his grandmother, mother and daughters.
Now let’s see what the polls do. My gut tells me Obama will edge up in Virginia, Ohio and Iowa. If that happens and he holds those three important states, he will be re-elected as the next President of the United States in exactly 20 days. And 20 days in a campaign is a lifetime.
On to the debate in Florida!