ADVERTISEMENT

I want My President back. I want Hope and Change, not Hem and Haw. I want Fill My Heart, not Droop My Eyelids. In what many thought would be a no-contest debate Wednesday night between master word-weaver Barack Obama and stiff, robotic Mitt Romney, the teacher got schooled. Obama gave a “how not to” tutorial in pregnant pauses, run-on sentences and impact-killing digressions. He may have set a record for use of the word “uh” in a public forum. The man who was elected to lead seemed a half-step behind all night. In sharp contrast, Romney was clear, concise, direct. He spoke in short sentences and pounded home each point. He looked and sounded, well, presidential. If post-debate polls reflect reality, he – in one night – resuscitated a drooping campaign. Like most people, I made up my mind on this race long ago. Nothing short of Obama speaking in tongues Wednesday would change my mind. But there remains a core of “undecideds” whose votes will push the swing states. According to a CBS News poll, the debate earned Romney a 12 percent spike among “uncommitteds.” Astoundingly, he more than doubled the number of people who feel he cares about average Americans. “I think this re-energized a lot of Republicans who might've been feeling dispirited,” Jim Campbell, chairman of UB's political science department, told me. “And it's a clear wake-up call for Obama.” For whatever reason, Obama the Orator morphed into Babbling Barack. It was like watching Lance Armstrong fall off of his bike; like seeing Michael Phelps call for a lifeguard. Obama injected Hope and Change all right – into Romney's candidacy. I waited in vain for the Man of Words to drive home a point, to wrap up a sentence with an exclamation point instead of a semicolon. The Great Articulator seemed at times inarticulate. Maybe Republicans are right in thinking the guy is lost without his teleprompter. Call Homeland Security. I think someone stole the president's soul. Nobody wins a debate with better statistics. It is mostly about impressions and impact. There were thousands of words uttered in the 1980 Ronald Reagan-Jimmy Carter face-off, but many people remember just four of them: Reagan's masterfully dismissive “There you go again.” In their iconic 1960 televised encounter, John Kennedy looked like a movie star, Richard Nixon a shifty-eyed hustler with flop sweat and a 5 o'clock shadow. Obama lost points even when Romney spoke. With his slumped shoulders and downcast eyes, he came across – however unintentionally – as a guy taking a beating. He could have been sitting on the Buffalo Bills' bench during a typical thrashing by the Patriots. A recent Newsweek article, which now seems prescient, conjectured that Obama's primary debate problem might be overconfidence. Eloquence comes easily to a president who had been padding his swing state cushion. Beyond that, I doubt that any staffer with pre-debate concerns was eager to share them with the boss of bosses. The fallout came Wednesday night. Somebody hijacked the president's soul. Unless he finds it soon, it may be too late. email: desmonde@buffnews.com