Guy Benson
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This report from the UK Daily Mail's Tony Harnden is at once astonishing yet not entirely surprising.  Sources close to the Obama campaign were alarmed to discover that President Empty Chair strode off stage a week ago tonight feeling confident that he'd just beaten Mitt Romney in the debate.  At what point does acute arrogance cross some threshold into self-delusion?  Read and marvel:
 

When President Barack Obama stepped off the stage in Denver last week the 60 million Americans watching the debate against Mitt Romney already knew it had been a disaster for him. But what nobody knew, until now, was that Obama believed he had actually won. In an extraordinary insight into the events leading up to the 90 minute showdown which changed the face of the election, a Democrat close to the Obama campaign today reveals that the President alsodid not take his debate preparation seriously, ignored the advice of senior aides and ignored one-liners that had been prepared to wound Romney.

The Democrat said that Obama's inner circle was dismayed at the 'disaster' and that he believed the central problem was that the President was so disdainful of Romney that he didn't believe he needed to engage with him. President Obama made it clear he wanted to be doing anything else - anything - but debate prep,' the Democrat said. 'He kept breaking off whenever he got the opportunity and never really focused on the event.; He went into the debate armed with a number of one-liners to throw at Romney, including at least two about Romney not caring about 47 per cent of the country. But he decided not to use them.The Democrat, who is aligned with the Obama campaign and has been an unofficial adviser on occasions, said that David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, was stunned that the President left the stage feeling that he had won the debate.


Obama doesn't have much of an appetite for governing, that much we already knew. He much prefers campaigning -- but only the fun stuff, like speeches, posing for photographs, attending chic celebrity soirees and addressing cheering throngs.  Debate prep and actual homework?  What a "drag," he told a staffer.  I could possibly understand the president thinking that he didn't have much to worry about despite his lackluster debate performance, but it's other-wordly that he apparently had no indication that he'd gotten thumped until others broke the news to him.  Yikes.  It wasn't even close; CNN, CBS News, Pew and Gallup all polled an off-the-charts Romney victory.  Only hardened Obama sycophants gave the win to the president.  It seems Obama's his own biggest fan.  Who's the "out of touch" candidate in this race, again?  I'll leave you with two items:

(1) This immortal Obama quote seems more apropos than ever:  "You know, I actually believe my own bulls**t."

(2) A good point from Jim Geraghty:  Even if Obama's approach and liveliness improves next week, how do you help fix a debater who can't even instinctually tell when he's losing.
 

The description of Obama – so disdainful, he didn’t feel he needed to really interact with Romney – seems to fit the demeanor we saw in the president, and other descriptions of the mood within Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters. The problem is that this sets up a darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don’t decision for Obama in the next presidential debate next week. If Obama tears into Romney from the opening moments, he comes across as a man who realizes he’s losing, and who’s desperate to change the dynamic. He may look harsh, angry, and divisive. His base will probably love it, but all of the voters who have shifted to Romney in the past week will probably feel better about their choice. The tone of Obama’s performance last week was that he’s spent - he’s out of energy, out of ideas, out of hope and now just hoping to plod along for the next four years. Ninety minutes of Obama trying to recite his attack ads’ greatest hits before a town hall audience will only reinforce the perception, “this guy’s done, he’s got nothing else left to offer.” Keep in mind that Romney proved in the first debate to be much more nimble, persuasive, and personable than almost anyone expected. Obama could very well go on the attack and lose the exchange.


Jim puts his finger on the dilemmaTeam Obama faces: Come on too strong, and Obama will look desperate and angry -- plus, there's no guarantee that Obama would even win the points he raises.  But repeat Denver's hands-off, sluggish performance, and the alarm bells will grow louder.  The president will likely improve next week (there's nowhere to go but up), but he needs to thread a difficult needle by engaging an opponent for whom he holds nothing but disdain.  It's hard to manufacture seriousness and focus for someone you don't respect.
 

UPDATE - Interesting observation from Allahpundit, who's slightly skeptical about this report: "I keep telling myself that even a guy with a galactic ego who surrounds himself with yes-men, cultists, and a very friendly media couldn’t possibly have thought he won that debate...But then I remember that his grand answer to Romney’s national poll surge was a Big Bird ad, and I don’t know. I just don’t know."


UPDATE II - Obama's fresh excuse: Hey, I was "too polite" to Romney in the first round.  Okaaay, then.

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Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography