Toe to toe, interruption to interruption, like two gladiators they squared off in the arena. Candy Crowley's best efforts to maintain order couldn't survive the testosterone battle that played out before us. It was not only great TV, but a superb debate. The key takeaway: Barack is back and moderate Mitt can't survive careful scrutiny.
Let me expand: While Romney's economic agenda has a superficial appeal to a lot of folks who are still suffering from the aftermath of the cataclysm of 2008 and the evisceration of middle class wealth that has been ongoing for over two decades, Romney's plan is really little more than a combination of snake oil and old wine in new bottles - flawed conceptually and arithmetically. Romney plays on the discontent of a public desperate for better economic times, but he offers up merely a series of tax cuts and a passive government when much more is needed.
The auto bailout disagreement is the perfect metaphor for the intellectual debate between the two candidates. And the results of the experiment could not be more telling: the bailout really did save an entire sector, and a million jobs, while Romney's claim that there was an alternative is simply false. There was no private financing available. None. The capital markets were frozen and had the government not stepped in, the entire sector would have shut down. Romney's one dimensional view of when government must intervene is belied by the reality of what happened. Let Ohio take note.
Second, Romney's tax plan really doesn't add up. A five trillion dollar hole can't be filled by the less than a trillion raised by capping deductions, and his overarching claims are simply inconsistent: He says several things: the plan is revenue neutral; the rich will still pay the same percentage of the tax bill that they have been paying, and the middle class is getting a tax cut. Those pieces don't add up. It is simple arithmetic. I don't think they have run the numbers or even actually have a plan - and that is why they won't give us any specifics.
Third, on foreign policy - Romney tried to capitalize on the festering anxiety over the tragedy at Benghazi, but has no answers or ideas when it comes to Libya, Syria, or Iran. Bellicose language does not a foreign policy make.
Finally, with respect to guns - both candidates failed us. I wanted to avert my eyes during their efforts to dodge and bob and weave. A simple " I have caved to the NRA and am doing what I know to be wrong" would have been much better.
I am still comfortably confidant that the resurgent President will survive the re-election campaign. I hope between November 6 and January 20 somebody on his staff comes up with a second term agenda. We haven't heard it yet - but whatever they come up with will surely be far better than anything the Romney camp has conjured.
Eliot Spitzer is the former Governor of New York, and hosts Viewpoint every weeknight at 8pm on Current TV.
The views expressed by the station’s commentators are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the views of WAMC or its management.