Archive for October, 2012

Two-and-a-Half Cheers for Romney

Some time back, I wrote a post that John Andrews characterized as, “Two Cheers for Romney,” an explanation of why I had finally climbed on board and was supporting him for President.  And while I’m obviously strongly backing him over President Obama, it’s important to remember just what we’re getting.  We’re not getting Ronald Reagan.  We’re getting, I think, Nixon without the paranoia, someone who’s by nature conservative, but not a movement conservative.  We’re getting someone who won’t actually start turning back the debt and reducing the mission of government.

But he will try to stop the abuse of executive branch authority.  He understands how economies actually work, and what it takes to create wealth rather than destroy it.  While he’s without foreign policy experience, he’s not without a foreign policy, and he understands that the world craves and needs American leadership, and that American values can’t thrive even at home without that leadership.

Barack Obama, depending on whom you listen to, either understands none of that, understands all of it and doesn’t care, or understands all of it and wants to use it as a bludgeon to implement the next stage of Progressivism.  To me, what he understands is less important that what he’ll implement, and the next stage of Progressivism is fearsome enough as a policy.

We’re getting someone who will, in order words, buy us enough time and breathing room to start rolling back the welfare state and the bureaucratic state.

There are risks with this approach.  The most obvious is that the growth in government won’t stop or slow down enough, and we’ll be left as we were with George W. Bush – unhappy with much, but unwilling to contradict the leader of our own party.  And indeed, too unrestrained an objection to this or that policy could end up undermining a presidency that we ought to see as an opportunity.

But I think the greater threat comes from the forces that Prof. Paul Rahe identifies with the newly-minted Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder:

But, like most businessmen, he is timid in the face of potential conflict, and he instinctively shuns anything that would really ruffle feathers. He did not have the courage or perhaps the imagination to stage a confrontation with the unions in the manner of Scott Walker, and so he nixed right-to-work. In effect, he opted for half-measures; and, in the process, he squandered a mandate to change things in the state.

If my fears are realized, it will be due to the fecklessness of a single Republican – who had a chance to set things right but failed to recognize that bad management is not the chief source of Michigan’s problems and that he had to confront more fundamental problems and articulate an argument appealing to justice in defense of what he intended to do.

This fact ought to give one pause. If Mitt Romney wins in November — and I still expect him to win by a landslide — I sure hope that he does not revert to the technocratic, apolitical bipartisanship that marked his tenure as governor in Massachusetts. If he does, we may see Barack Obama back in 2016 . . . or someone worse.

Romney makes much of his ability to work with Democrats.  But looking at the ferocity of the press assault, the intransigence and just plain disingenuousness of Harry Reid, and the magnitude of the task before us, it’s just as important that he know how to work against them, when necessary.  If he can do that, if he’s willing to do that, then we’ll have a chance to start turning this thing around.

Then, he’ll finally earn that last half-cheer from me.

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PERA Gains a New Client Group

What makes it so hard to fight the growth of government is its ability to create client groups seemingly at will, with the money of the very people it’s seeking to co-opt.  I see it myself all the time at the JCRC, where what had been private, service groups are reduced to begging for scraps and favors in front of legislative committees.  At one time they thought it more expedient to do that than to make the case for the value of their work to the community they served and represented.  Now they’re caught, and even when they’re not temperamentally inclined to go along with the leftist agenda, they often do because they can no longer imagine doing business without government support.

So it happens with PERA, too, which has announced the Colorado Mile High Fund, a fund geared towards investing in Colorado entrepreneurs who have partners, but are also having a hard time finding additional capital.

“We heard from businesses around the state during the development of the Colorado Blueprint that increased access to capital is critical to their success and that of our state’s economy,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “The creation of the Colorado Mile High Fund will improve that access to capital and we are pleased that Colorado PERA’s partnership will benefit and help grow companies here in Colorado.”

The risks to the taxpayers and the foolishness of this sort of government adventure are all around us, but it’s hard to tell if that’s a bug or a feature of this plan.  I don’t think PERA’s out to deliberately lose money, but investing in high-risk start-ups may not be the best decision for a defined benefit retirement fund.

Even if this turns out to be one fund in the option and under-used 401(k) option, entrepreneurs and start-ups will now have a reason to support increased funding for a government-sponsored employee retirement plan, whose money much come from the pockets of the taxpayer.   The most dynamic sector of the state’s economy will be effectively recruited on behalf of its most stifling.

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Today’s Political Ads Yesterday

Anyone who thinks that this campaign is the nastiest in history doesn’t have a very long memory.  In 1964, Lyndon Johnson ran the sort of bare-knuckles campaign against Barry Goldwater that we associate more with the 1860s than the 1960s.  After all, wasn’t there a centrist consensus in place?  Perhaps, and perhaps Goldwater’s threat to that consensus accounts for the ferocity of the attacks Johnson leveled against him.

Goldwater’s campaign ads were often long and thoughtful, and rarely mentioned Johnson by name.

But Goldwater tried to make an issue out of American defense posture vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, arguing that a harder public line would be in the country’s best interest.  And his vote against the 1964 Civil Right Act, combined with an undesired and uninvited endorsement by the KKK – still a power in Southern politics at that time – allowed Johnson to portray him as an extremist who would get our children killed in a nuclear war, but not before poisoning them with radiation.  Johnson’s aide Bill Moyers deftly parodied Goldwater’s campaign slogan, “In your heart, you know he’s right,” with, “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”

In that respect, Johnson’s campaign prefigured Obama’s effort to paint Mitt Romney as extreme, this time pivoting on women’s reproductive justice, or whatever they’re calling mandatory employer-funded birth control pills, and Romney’s desire to cut taxes.

Thanks to the good folks over at the Museum of the Moving Image, we can see that except for the 1960s production values, Johnson’s ads could have been made this year.  Consider this one using Goldwater’s own words against him, out of context, of course:

We all know about the “Daisy” ad, but this one also uses a brief Goldwater quote to devastating effect:

Goldwater’s ads, by contrast, seem general, a little vague, a little paranoid.  This one is trying to make the very real point about the dehumanizing effect of government bureaucracy, but because it’s so abstract, it ends up being ineffective in 1964 and comical today.  It reminds me of one of those Public Service Announcements in movies of the 1940s, more than a campaign ad, at least until you get to Goldwater’s personal message:

The Johnson ads tell a story, the Goldwater ads lecture.  Even this last, Closing Argument ad, designed to give “permission” to Republicans to vote against their party’s “mistake” in nominating Goldwater, has a peculiar sort of attraction, drawing you in.  (It also shows just how well the Mad Men guys have nailed the look and feel of the era.)  The goal is to make a very liberal President such as Johnson acceptable to a traditional establishment Republican, and it does so by pointing out how un-acceptable Goldwater ought to be, with only the slightest references to Johnson, the indirect mentions of “experience” and “judgment.”  In fact, Johnson should have been nowhere near acceptable to the average voter, much less the average Republican, and wouldn’t have been, except for the effectiveness of the demonization campaign that preceded this ad.

It’s telling that the most effective ad that Goldwater produced was the famous speech by Ronald Reagan, who knew how to tell a story on a human scale.  But by then, it was too late.

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Everything Ends Up Subsidized Or Illegal

We are Orthodox Jews.

We keep kosher.

And as we all know, kosher meat is expensive.  A typical cut of kosher meat is something like twice the price of a comparable non-kosher cut.  Ground beef is at $2.49 a pound?  Kosher ground beef runs about $4.99 a pound.  I just check the price of ribeye.  Treif at $6.99, it’ll run you $14.89 a pound at the East Side Kosher Deli.  (They’re not necessarily gouging here in Denver; it’s that way everywhere.)

Now, Susie just got a mailer from the Colorado Democrats stating that Mitt Romney would “[take] away vital health services for women,” by, “[signing] laws allowing your employer and your insurance company to make your birth control decisions.”  Presumably, they mean he’d repeal the HHS Mandate requiring employers and insurers to pay for employees’, without co-pay.

They’re arguing that, now that such coverage is the law, going back to making someone pay for it themselves is the same thing as “restricting” it (their word), or allowing someone else decide whether or not you use it.

So what this means is that you, every one of you now reading this piece (unless you also keep kosher), are deliberately restricting Susie and me from our Constitutional right to keep kosher.  You are in fact making our food choices for us.  Unless, of course, you take out your checkbook right now and send Susie and me a check to cover the difference in cost between kosher and non-kosher meat.  And you wouldn’t want that on your conscience, would you?

This is the reductio ad absurdum of the liberal line that not having someone else pay for something legal that you want is the same thing as restricting it.  So ultimately, everything is either free or illegal.

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Never Been a Fund Like the Stimulus Barack Obama

John Hinderaker over at Powerline does a nice job of examining some of the basic resemblances between the Obama administration and the European National Socialist programs of the 30s.  This doesn’t mean Nazi with all their racial horrors; people forget that even outside of Mussolini’s Italy, Fascism was considered the “Wave of the Future” by many useful idiots.  And Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is a tour-de-force on the subject of how fascism was a pathology of the Left, not the right.

Obama’s early personal tours overseas after his election showed him to be completely out of his depth when dealing with foreign leaders, and if Luigi Barzini is to be believed, there was always a substantial segment of the Italian population that never really took him seriously, or at least saw him for the fundamentally unserious leader that he was.

But it was Evita Peron who had the good fortune to have Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice write a musical about her.  “Benito on Broadway” probably never got very far because of WWII.  Turning the hideously murderous and mentally unstable Che Guevara into a folk-hero Greek chorus is forgivable – barely – only because the music itself is so good, and because nobody takes the actual history in a Broadway music very seriously, anyway.

Obama’s overseas trips also brought to mind Webber’s song about Evita’s “Rainbow Tour,” where she, too, found some popular acclaim with little policy success to show for it.  And the Stimulus was always a case of buying people off with their own money, or perhaps their childrens’ and grandchildrens’.  The program produced little in the way of actual stimulus, largely amounted to a massive transfer of debt from states and localities to the federal government, and a transfer of wealth from the taxpayers and their progeny to Obama’s political friends.

Now comes word that the various federal inspectors general charged with looking after the Stimulus funds have opened over 1900 separate investigations into potential mischief.

The government’s chief spending watchdogs have already secured nearly 600 convictions and judgments against people and companies accused of misusing stimulus funds and have a whopping 1,900 investigations currently open into possible wrongdoing, officials say.

The wave of scrutiny more than three years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed by Congress early in the Obama administration means the question of how money was managed early in the program is certain to extend well into the next year as many of the current investigations come to conclusion.

When the money keeps rolling out you don’t keep books
You can tell you’ve done well by the happy grateful looks
Accountants only slow things down, figures get in the way
Never been a lady loved as much as Eva Peron

I know there’s a better-lit version out there with the current cast, but even Mandy Patinkin’s voice projects a desperation, anger, and contempt that Ricky Martin can only conjure up in his worst nightmares.

There is, as yet, no evidence of personal corruption by the Obama, rumors of Hawaiian retirement plans notwithstanding, but Illinois politicians of both parties have a long history of making sure their clients remember them when the time comes.  Running that to ground will probably prove impossible, but for me, it’ll be enough to send them into retirement, no matter how plush.

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Obama’s Campaign Finance Loopholes

Newly-inaugurated Pres. Obama promised that transparency would be the hallmark of his administration in a statement on January 21, 2009:

“The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is to make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well-served.”

Unfortunately, the Obama campaign hasn’t been a model of transparency itself, and it now appears as though it may well have been exploiting loopholes in campaign finance reporting requirements to circumvent the law and collect foreign campaign contributions.

A report from Peter Schweizer’s Government Accountability Institute, “America the Vulnerable: Are Foreign and Fraudulent Online Campaign Contributions Influencing U.S. Elections?,” has as its centerpiece an examination of the fundraising practices of the Obama campaign.

The domain, “” is owned by a U.S. businessman based in Shanghai, with close ties to both the Obama administration and the Chinese government, and whose business, Acorn International, is involved in processing credit card transactions. The “” domain reroutes its traffic – roughly 2/3 of which is from overseas IP addresses – to, the fundraising site of the Obama campaign.  What’s happening is that a large number of foreign site visitors are being added to the Obama campaign’s email rolls.

The Obama campaign has been emailing campaign solicitations to foreign email addresses, often asking for contributions in the odd amount of $190. The cutoff is $200, below which campaigns are not required to collect or report information about the donor.

The campaign has only minimal Address Verification settings, making it possible for a foreign contributor to enter, undetected, a U.S. address for his credit card, and have the transaction processed. In addition, the campaign doesn’t ask for CVV (that three- or four-digit number on the back of your credit card) for campaign contributions, even though it does for merchandise purchases.

In essence, the campaign has disabled virtually all of the electronic safeguards that would allow it to detect fraudulent or foreign contributions, and it is under no legal obligation to collect or report information about those contributors, for future audit. Regardless of that, it is illegal for a campaign even to solicit contributions from foreign nationals.

Katie Pavlich has written a nice summary of the findings here. In the meantime, Schweizer’s dismemberment of the Obama campaign’s non-response to the findings can be found here and here.

It will – and should – be noted that many Congressional campaigns, including those of Republicans, are similarly at risk for failing to require CVV and to use the strictest AVS settings. However, few Congressional or Senate campaigns feature candidates of international star status, or offices capable of influencing, setting, and managing trade policy and its execution. This limits both the ability of those campaigns to solicit foreign donations, and the interests in foreign donors in contributing to them.  President Obama’s re-election campaign is, in this regard, something special.

Certainly the evidence is mostly circumstantial, but that will always be true in instances where the law simply doesn’t require the reporting necessary to trace violations. The evidence isn’t enough to convict, but it most certainly is enough to warrant the sort of investigation that can subpoena internal memos and emails, depose witnesses, and use normal prosecutorial techniques to get to the truth of the matter.

If you got here from WhoSaidYouSaid, here’s how you get back.


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Pitfalls in the Vice Presidential Debate

Fresh of Mitt Romney’s knock-out in the first Presidential Debate last Wednesday, Republicans are already licking their chops at the prospect of Paul Ryan going up against Joe Biden on Thursday.  Allow me to interject a note of caution.

There’s little question that Paul Ryan is both smarter and sharper than Biden.  His celebrated dissection of Obama’s fraudulent Medicare accounting at the Health Care Summit – which Obama had expected to run as an undergraduate-level seminar in political surrender – remains a classic, and as relevant to the Medicare/Obamacare debate today as it was then.

Biden, on the other hand, has trouble remembering what state he’s in, what century he’s in, and even counting to four.  If debates were all about pure policy wonk smarts, Biden would be better off sending an empty chair.  In fact, he might be the only national-level candidate to engage in a drinking game at his own debate.

But debates are also about personality and succinctly encapsulating issues in a way that resonates with the average voter, and Biden actually has some gift for that.  Consider the story he tells about his father, the one where he quotes him as saying, “Show me your budget, and I’ll show you what you care about.”  There’s a lot of common-sense, common-touch truth in that statement.  It takes considerable political skill and stage presence to pull off the obvious rejoinder – “Well, then, I guess we know what Harry Reid’s Senate cares about, or doesn’t.” – without coming across as a smart-aleck.  In this regard, Ryan’s relative youth, and his tendency to speak a little more quickly than Biden, could work against him.

The other trap is one that Romney deftly avoided in the first debate – the Democrats’ desire to turn this election into a public relitigation of Griswold v. Connecticut.   Romney so completely controlled the debate last Wednesday, that Obama could only weakly wave the e-word, “extreme,” at the train as it blitzed by his platform.  Biden will do everything he can to bring up contraception and abortion (and the Clinton policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”).  He’ll do this with the expectation that the press Democrats with bylines will pick up the theme, and prime the pump for Obama to do the same at the Town Hall debate on the 16th.  Any success in resurrecting what the Democrats clearly see as their closing argument will help stall the Republican momentum that’s picked up in the last few days.

At this point, there’s little doubt that Republicans are more eager to vote for their guy, and more eager to vote, than the Democrats are, but the Veep debate offers a number of chances for the Dems to do what they did in 2010 in Colorado, and negate a significant Republican edge in early voting by scaring younger, independent, suburban women into providing a razor-thin margin of victory.

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Democrat Disillusionment

Wednesday night, Mitt Romney punctured the balloon that was Barack Obama’s inflated reputation as a debater and communicator.  I guess having a hollow core and thin skin is a bad combination.

Romney did this largely by turning out not to be the stick figure that Obama had been running against for the last 18 months, and which he had apparently internalized as actually being the actual Mitt Romney.  So in some respects, the left’s and the Democrats’ disillusionment with Obama is a result of Obama’s disillusionment with the opponent his campaign constructed for him.  So far, his only response has been to complain that Mitt the Man is a better candidate than Mitt the Myth, and to argue that Mitt must have been lying during the debate.  Romney’s campaign has responded with an ad calling Obama on his own campaign’s admission that Romney’s proposed net tax cut won’t be any near $5 trillion, an admission echoed by the media “fact-checkers” that, up until now, Obama had held up as the Gold Standard of Absolute Truth.

That said, some of Obama’s own claims during the debate turn out to be at least misleading.  At one point, during an answer ostensibly about working across the aisle, Obama mentioned three free trade agreements passed in 2011:

“That’s how we signed three trade deals into law that are helping us to double our exports and sell more American products around the world.”

But of course, Obama inherited those free trade agreements – with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia – from the Bush administration, and he sat on them for over two years before submitting them to the Republican-controlled House, where they were approved, and the Democrat Senate, where they passed overwhelmingly.  In this regard, the comparisons with President Clinton are instructive.  One of Clinton’s first acts was to submit NAFTA for Congressional approval, where it passed a Democrat House largely on the strength of Republican backing, and against the wishes of the Democratic majority.  The Democrat leadership simply wasn’t going to submarine a brand-new Democrat president on one of his first initiatives.  Obama had the option to do the same thing anytime during his first two years in office, but chose to wait until the demands grew loud under a Republicans House to do so.

His claims to being open to Republican ideas have always been a sham, but in this case, they’re little more than an attempt to cover up for the fact that he all but ignored economic growth and job creation for his first two years in office.  The difference between Clinton’s & Obama’s trade policy lies in contrast to the similarity in their politics, though.  Clinton has tried mightily to take credit for the benefits of a welfare reform bill that he only adopted once his party lost control of Congress. Likewise with Obama and these bilateral trade agreements.  (In what would be a bizarre claim for an actual news organization, the Washington Post at the time tried to spin this as a win for Obama, rather than his bowing to reality.)

Closer to Colorado, Congressman Ed Perlmutter apparently never got the message, and was the one member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to vote against all three agreements.  Colorado’s trade with Panama and Colombia is relatively small, but we export hundreds of millions of dollars a year in goods to South Korea, an economy which, while running a trade surplus, isn’t nearly the export-driven economy that it used to be.  Perlmutter was the only Colorado representative who professed to see a threat to local jobs in these agreements.  Even Diana DeGette, long in the tank for the unions, only opposed the Colombian agreement.

As we progressively disabuse ourselves of illusions regarding Democrats, perhaps the next two to fall will be that Obama deserves credit for free trade, and that Perlmutter understands the topic at all.


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Reaction to the Debate

The consensus view going into tonight’s debate was that Mitt Romney needed, if not a knockout win, at least a technical knockout.  With the President leading in most of the polls, although probably not by very much, a win on points probably wouldn’t change enough of few remaining undecided voters, nor would it re-energize Romney’s supporters.  Obama needed to try to run out the clock, looking Presidential, reminding people of why they elected him in the first place.  Given the results of just about every poll of viewers, I think it’s fair to say that Romney achieved that.

His demeanor was that of the Alpha Male: calm, confident, relaxed, explaining without condescending, having mastered not only his own talking points but those of his opponent.  Obama reminded me of a fighter who, when he tried to throw punches, did so laboriously and dropped his other hand, leaving himself open far too often.

Obama look ill-at-ease, saying “uh” and “um” far too many times in what should have been well-rehearsed opening remarks.  Romney breezed through those, and was prepared for Obama’s claims about the $5 trillion tax cut (if only!), and slyly compared the President to a young boy who repeats the same thing over and over, hoping for his father to accept it as true.  Having already established himself as having more rhythm with his punches, rhetorically turning Obama into his son was brilliant.  From there on, Obama looked physically smaller on the the screen, his cramped hand gestures emphasizing his own discomfort more than the points hwas failing to make.  And when bringing up a list of failed green energy “investments,” he noted that, “Someone told me, you don’t pick winners and losers, you just pick the losers,” scoring a direct hit.

Romney left his own openings, of course, but Obama was never really able to connect.  Those of us who picked another candidate in the primaries rightly suspected that Romney’s Achilles Heel was health care reform, and while Obama seemed to recover a little of his game there, he didn’t bring anything new.  Romney kept bringing the discussion back to jobs and growth, and Obama really had no answer for that.  By the time the debate wound down to the final two questions, Obama looked beaten, frustrated, and resentful.

The reason was clear.  Romney controlled the pacing and the direction of the debate.  Jim Lehrer looked like the overmatched substitute teacher trying to deal with a roomful of 10-year-olds who’ve just come back from a week’s worth of snow days.  He brings with him about 40 years of goodwill dating back to the 70s and the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, but for all that, the debate may as well have had a timekeeper rather than a moderator.  Lehrer decided that the theme of the night would be to get the two men to draw distinctions between themselves and the other man, and Romney simply determined from the beginning that he’d oblige, but on his own terms.  So well did he use his time that while Obama actually had the ball longer (42 minutes to Romney’s 38), it seemed as though Romney talked longer.

(Regardless of who won, I think this format is a winner, allowing the candidates to have some real give-and-take, and determine where they want the debate to go, rather than the stiff, answer-rebut-rebut-next question format that we’ve seen for 40 years.  We’re never going to get Lincoln-Douglas, but this is close to it for Short Attention Span Nation.)

It was on those final two questions – the one about healing the partisan divide that we hear every four years, and the closing statements – that we saw just how comprehensive Romney’s victory tonight had been.  Romney gave the typical challenger’s answer that he’d sit down and talk to the other side.  (One assumes that Washington Democrats play in good faith at one’s own peril, of course.)  But right at the end of Obama’s answer, he said that sometimes you have to say no to your own party, and that Romney hadn’t been able to say no to the more extreme elements of the Republican party.  The notion of “extreme” Republicans has, of course, been planted as the Democrats’ closing argument, and you see it all over just about every piece of campaign material they mail, post, or broadcast.  So thoroughly did Romney own the night, that Obama was reduced to sneaking in the code-word at the very end of the very last question.

The body language of the closing statements said everything.  Obama’s gaze was evasive, and mostly directly at the floor in the from of his lectern.  When he finally turned to the camera to ask for people’s votes, it was so halting you didn’t believe he meant it.  Romney spoke to the camera for the full two minutes, and ran through series of sharp contrasts defining the choice for the voters.  It was simply stunning.

While Romney’s caution on much of policy was in evidence – things he likes about Dodd-Frank, things he likes about Obamacare – he also said some thing that should have left conservatives gleeful.  His comment about the moral responsibility not to leave a debt to his grandkids could have come straight from AEI’s Arthur Brooks.  His appeal to the Declaration and the Constitution, instead of mere pragmatism, when asked about the role of government was noteworthy because it came in a general election debate, rather than in a Republican nomination debate.  And the repeated statements that the only way out of the deficit is to cut spending and grow the economy are the Reagan formula revived.

I thought at the time that Romney’s cementing himself in the primaries as the “centrist” candidate might give him more room to make a credible conservative case in the general election, if he chose to do that, and it looks as though he has.

All that said, once the euphoria of a strategic victory fades, there are some harsh realities the Romney campaign will have to face.  First, the press Democrats with bylines (a la Glenn Reynolds) will not be happy at the night’s events.  Having rushed to their man’s defense once before, they’ll spend the next few days “fact-checking” Romney’s statements, which will, naturally deserve greater scrutiny, since he is believed to have won the evening.  With Obama’s failure to bring home the “extremist” theme, count as well on the press Democrats with bylines to hammer that home, as well.

The big win also sets the bar high for Romney in the upcoming foreign policy debate, and lower for Obama.  Don’t think Obama won’t be better prepared, but don’t think Team Romney doesn’ t know that, too.

All in all, a good night.  One that will energize volunteers and perhaps put away a couple of the Senate races the Republicans should have sealed up long ago.

But Don’t.  Count.  Chickens.  They may not be coming home to roost, but they don’t hatch for another month, either.

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