So Mitt Romney's handlers, friends, and enablers are crowing about last night's debate. They shouldn't. It's time to stop looking at winners and losers, and look at just what was (or wasn't) accomplished last night in terms of clarifying positions on issues. On that score, no matter who you support, the debate was a failure.
Leave aside for a moment the fact that several issues were notably absent from the dialogue on either side.
Mitt Romney came no closer to defining himself or his policies than he had before Wednesday night. He was lucky. For reasons known only to President Obama, he failed to call Romney out on flip flopping that would have made a fresh caught fish on a boat proud. Romney managed to backtrack on policies he staked out in the primaries on education, healthcare, Medicare, and the president didn't look for a moment like he was confronting a guy who desperately wants his job. Did anybody else notice that Romney's adviser had to walk back his pledge on covering pre-existing conditions in his healthcare plan not an hour after the debate ended?
Some say Barack Obama looked tired, that the thin air of Denver got to him. Others say he's torn a page from Muhammad Ali, and that a rope-a-dope style was being used in this, the early going. On that score, the real test for Romney is whether any voters were won over by his act. That we may not know for a minute.
Back to the debate itself. Jim Lehrer is one of the finest journalists this nation has produced. He didn't show it last night. The debate meandered in a way that may have driven some New Yorkers to check out the Yankee game that was running simultaneously. Long story short, the people who watched the debate deserved better. There are two more to go, plus the VP contest between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden. There's still time for redemption.
The issues Wednesday just seemed to float away like so many bubbles. Vouchers for Medicare, education cuts, a tax plan (or not), not to mention the 47%, gun violence, and voter suppression, none of which saw the light of day. Folks will go on for the rest of today's news cycle about who won and who lost. It may even last until tomorrow.
I've got bad news. We lost. Or did we?