George Will: Romney's biggest achievement last night might have been changing the narrative

Via the Daily Caller. Until around an hour ago, I was set to agree with him. Then this somehow ended up in my Twitter feed:

Trippi posted that around 6 p.m. ET tonight. I haven’t seen anything else about booming voter registration in the news yet, but as soon as I do, it’ll be on the front page. Stay tuned.

As for Will’s point about the narrative, see last night’s open thread post about the various forms of media bias. There were two types of bias working against Romney until last night, one the press’s obvious ideological preference for Democrats and the other their disdain for “stiff” candidates who aren’t good at retail politics. Put those two together and Romney’s slight slippage in the polls last month was all they needed to build a narrative about an awkward Republican nominee whose deficiencies had finally trapped him in a campaign death spiral. John Cook, in writing about this for Gawker, observed correctly that it’s hard to get out of the “weirdo box” once you’re in, but destroying the president of the United States — allegedly one of the great orators of the age — in a debate watched by 67 million people is one way to do it. It’s hard to see Romney as a sad sack after that unless you’re straining very hard to do it, and if you’re straining very hard to do it, then you’re already in the tank for Obama. Precisely because of that, in fact, Obama’s excuse-making today is even less convincing than expected:

Even more frustrating to many Obama supporters was the fact that the president’s muted tone was at least partly by design.

Multiple party strategists privately attributed Obama’s demeanor to an ailment that frequently affects incumbents: a fear of appearing too aggressive and risking a larger-scale misstep that could transform the campaign. Projecting a calm, reasonable — some said “presidential” — demeanor was the strategy during Obama’s debate-prep sessions outside of Las Vegas.

But as a result, Obama allowed Romney to set the terms for much of their Wednesday night faceoff at the University of Denver.

The last thing he should have been worried about last night was appearing too aggressive. The media’s sad-sack take on Romney had set O up perfectly to go out there as an alpha-male C-in-C by taking charge, keeping Mitt on the defensive, and forcing viewers to conclude that Romney really was the slightly ridiculous out-of-his-depth loser that they’d been told he was. Instead they saw him manhandle a sitting president, who’d survived twenty-something debates with Hillary Clinton and another three with McCain to win the presidency. If there really was a “strategic” element to last night’s performance, it’s among the dumbest miscalculations in recent campaign history.

So much for the old narrative. The new narrative, needless to say, will be “the Obama comeback,” with any signs of life from O at the next debate inflated into a “fiery” performance demonstrating the president’s “command” and “passion,” blah blah blah. There’s nothing Romney can do to prevent that, but he can blunt it with another solid performance. After last night, there’s every reason to expect he’ll deliver.

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