Ann Althouse rewatched Wednesday's debate and reached a conclusion.
Obama wasn't that bad.
It's just that Romney was better.
Checking my observations on second viewing, looking to see what all the commentators claim to have seen, my experience was the same. Obama's performance was surely defensible. He didn't hem and haw or pause or look sleepy. He drifted from topic to topic too much and absurdly returned to schools too many times, but it seemed to me he had chosen a strategy, which was to be a decent, thoughtful, moderate guy, perhaps because it would appeal to women (like me) and to moderate undecideds (like me).
Why didn't the commentators who should have defended him defend him on that ground? Even if you think I'm wrong, we're talking about spin. What I'm saying is at least plausible spin, but we didn't hear it. Why? That's the puzzle before me, and I have the answer. There had to have been a coordinated decision to go with the talking point: Obama was terrible. He was tired, disengaged, unprepared. Shocking! But why would Obama's supporters coordinate to tell the story that way? What a weird thing to choose to put in our minds?
Here's why they did it. Romney was so much better than Obama. Romney was vigorous, vividly in command of the facts, principles of economics, free-market ideology. Like Obama, he had a strategy to appeal to moderates, and he jumped into the moderate ground and occupied it — stunningly — with modesty and charm. He radiated competence and readiness to work for us. There he stood, the brilliant candidate, who wants only to help us, knows how to help us, and deeply, passionately cares that we need help. Wow.