I had a hunch that Obama might phone in his second debate with Romney, or only pretend to try harder, having lost his heart for the job of President, but I was way wrong. He brought his best game to the table Tuesday night and he played his cards like a shark. Romney, overconfident and greedy, played the role of the fish.
Obama played two especially brilliant hands in the game. One was a devastating check-raise. When Romney challenged him on his statement that he had called the Benghazi murders a terrorist attack on the day after they occurred, Obama demurred mildly but didn’t seem to want to discuss the issue. Romney read this as weakness and pounced, thinking he had trapped Obama in a lie.
When Candy Crowley attested that Obama had indeed called the murders a terrorist act on the occasion in question, Obama went all in. He hit Romney hard, invoking his authority as President, and called Romney’s insinuations “offensive”. That’s harsh language for a Presidential debate, and Obama delivered it harshly — but he had caught Romney overplaying his hand and Romney had no choice but to fold.
Then, on the last hand, the closing statements, Romney made another bad bet — he referenced, almost in passing, his infamous 47% speech. Obama hadn’t mentioned it himself, and maybe Romney thought he was going to ignore it, but Romney didn’t factor position into the equation.
Romney had won the coin toss to decide the order in which the candidates would speak and he unwisely chose to speak first, meaning Obama would speak last. So when Romney made his weak bet on the 47% issue, Obama had a chance to go over the top and overwhelm him. Since Romney had brought it up, it didn’t look like a gratuitous jab from the President. Obama raised the half-hearted bet and then showed stronger cards.
By the end of the night Romney had lost most of the stack he had accumulated since the first debate, and Obama had enough chips on his side of the table to keep the game competitive. Romney may not learn from his bad play — he strikes me as one of those pompous “experts” who sits down at a poker table and blames the cards when he loses his money. It’s rarely the cards that make a man a fish — most often it’s the fish’s vanity and inability to recognize the strength of his opponents.