Michael Barone

As his dazed spin team pointed out, other incumbent presidents have stumbled in their first debates. But none ever had an instant poll report, as CNN's did, that the challenger won by a margin of 67 to 25 percent.

The fact is that for all his professions of bipartisan amity, Obama cannot bear to listen to tough questions or well made counterarguments. He certainly hasn't had to in the 200-plus fundraisers he's attended.

On the split screen, we saw the same expression of irritation -- as if he smelled something really bad -- as we did when he faced tough questions from Fox News' Bret Baier, when he had to listen to Paul Ryan demolish his health care plan at the Blair House summit, when he was probed on his broken immigration promise by interviewers on Univision.

What we didn't see is the Obama who is supposedly fascinated by the details of public policy. Sans teleprompter, he repeated the talking points of his television ads and, when Romney responded sharply, he had nothing to fall back on.

We saw the president who found it fitting to jet off to campaign in Las Vegas the day after the first murder of a U.S. ambassador in 33 years.

As you read this, you have more polling information than I do as I write. It's possible that the trend suggested by the Rasmussen and We Ask America results in Florida, Ohio and Virginia will not be confirmed by other polls. And there's a whole month till the election.

Obama will surely perform better in his next two debates. Romney may not perform as well. But the first numbers suggest the firewall may be crumbling. We'll see if it holds.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM