President Obama's lowest moment was when he tried to pivot from a real question talking about paying for more teachers and education to "grow jobs." Romney missed the obvious rejoinder: "Mr. President, education is very important, but as Jeremy asked you, the bigger problem we have is that 50 percent of new college graduates don't have jobs. They've done their part, where is the growing economy they need and the country needs, Mr. President?"
Voters hated it similarly when Romney pivoted from a question to insert his response to Obama's attack ads on his pension fund's investments in China.
Voters hate the feeling that they are being "played" by politicians. They hate, in particular, the feeling that it's so hard to figure out what's really true -- when so much is at stake.
Romney's fumbles and missed opportunities have the same root as the preposterous abortion ad he is now running -- traditional Northeastern Republican issues-pessimism about the core of the Republican Party's values. He has to massage their message, not run on it.
In all the swing states, Obama's abortion extremism should be a negative. But with Romney and the Romney Super PACs steadfastly committed to ignoring the social issues, Obama is free to press and define his attack, and Romney is left in a defensive crouch on issues that should be helping him swing those states.
The worst part is, if he ekes out a victory (as I think he will), the GOP elites will get exactly the wrong message about the path to victory.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.