George Romney was used to being protected by the press from the consequences of spontaneous comments; when he wasn’t, because he had entered into the realm of national politics, he was caught off guard and, soon enough, his candidacy collapsed.
Barack Obama has a similar problem. The mainstream media has been playing protective guard around him for the last five or six years. He has seldom faced tough questioning, having managed to avoid open press conferences (as I recall) since last June. And of course mainstream media is extremely unanxious to ask him embarrassing questions about a whole host of issues. To his credit, moderator Jim Lehrer didn’t zero in on these things but didn’t prevent the interaction between the candidates from raising such questions.
Obama suffered tonight from his lack of scrutiny from mainstream media. As I like to say, there is nothing free in politics, but there is some question about when you pay the price. In this first debate Obama paid the price for the hands-off treatment he has received from mainstream media.