There is no need to grade this on a curve. Romney did very well in absolute, not relative, terms. He didn't just do well compared with Obama's poor performance; he really shone, in every category. He proved himself to be very knowledgeable on policy and business, quick on his feet and able to deliver zingers as graciously as possible under the circumstances.
Obama, on the other hand, didn't just get edged out by a man who performed slightly better on a given night; he turned in a very poor performance. It wasn't just an off night for him. It showed that he isn't conversant with the essential details of the major issues at stake in this campaign and affecting our nation.
Obama is so often insulated by his teleprompter and his rigid control of the few news conferences he has that some haven't caught on to his weaknesses. But those were laid bare last night, as he couldn't hide his ignorance on so many critical issues. (You would think more people would have caught on by now from witnessing, for example, Obama's inability to identify the size of the national debt on David Letterman's show to within $5 trillion.)
The debate didn't turn on a cute turn of phrase or a clever one-liner or two; it was a comprehensive slaughter on substantive issues.
As we live by the sword, we meet our demise by it, as well. So as Obama's creators have manufactured his larger-than-life image, he is inevitably -- and fairly -- held to that standard. It's particularly damaging to Obama that he was taken down in the very area in which he and his devotees claim he excels the most: rhetoric.
As I wrote in a recent column, it is obvious that Obama's strong suit has been campaigning and community organizing, the latter being a euphemism for agitating and rabble-rousing. He has demonstrated that he hates getting his hands dirty on the details or even in the process of governance. He appears to believe that it should be enough that he drives the major issues of the day -- the big ideas -- and delegates almost everything else to his subordinates. On Wednesday night, he reaped the fruit of his habit of neglect -- because the national audience witnessed it.