In fact, the Romney who appeared in Denver to duke it out with the president is the one supporters once knew. It was the most recent Romney — the awkward, gaffe-prone Romney — who now seemed the stranger. Friends and close associates talking among themselves had been wondering what happened to their Romney — the smart, over-achieving businessman who was never at a loss for solutions.

He’s back. The dog is off the roof. Likability is now moot.

And likability, it turns out, isn’t about a winning smile or a cross-court shot. It’s about competence. Romney may not be able to perform the miracles he promises. Most presidents, once in office, discover that doing is harder than saying. But Wednesday night he conveyed a depth of knowledge as well as a level of confidence that is infectious.