Hall Monitor Mitt’s Missed Chance – The Daily Beast – CNN.com

President Obama needed to step up and dig in at Tuesday night’s second presidential debate, and that’s exactly what he did, I write over at CNN. Insistent jockeying for time, his fumble of the Benghazi question, and furious Etch-a-Sketch moments on everything from Pell Grants to the Dream Act may have hurt Romney with swing voters – exactly the ones he needs to hone in on in the coming weeks.

And he just came across as a bully:

“Mitt Romney followed a great debate with a fail. His constant interruption of Candy Crowley and the president – his peevish, ‘Hall Monitor Mitt’ persona – was not just a loss in terms of style points. It was revealing in terms of character. The CNN focus group found that the intense awkward interjections alienated swing voters and women in particular. Tweets to me used words like ‘entitled’ and ‘bully.’ Bottom line, it wasn’t presidential. It was small and self-important rather than big and magnanimous. And it will cost him momentum.

“The president started the debate hot rather than warm; he seemed almost too amped up. Romney did a better job relating to the audience as individuals at first. And then the insistent jockeying for time came, and the wheels started to come off his initially steady performance.”

It was a win for Obama, and Romney might not just have lost, he might have done himself substantive damage.

President Obama needed a good debate last night and he got one.

Mitt Romney followed a great first debate with a fail. His constant interruption of Candy Crowley and the president — his peevish, “Hall Monitor Mitt” persona — was not just a loss in terms of style points. It was revealing in terms of character. The CNN focus group found that the intense awkward interjections alienated swing voters and women in particular. Tweets to me used words like “entitled” and “bully.” Bottom line, it wasn’t presidential. It was small and self-important rather than big and magnanimous. And it will cost him momentum.

The president started the debate hot rather than warm; he seemed almost too amped up. Romney did a better job relating to the audience as individuals at first. And then the insistent jockeying for time came, and the wheels started to come off his initially steady performance.

The Bengazi moment was also clarifying. Mitt Romney lost a major opportunity to press the president on a still-evolving issue of real vulnerability for this administration. President Obama’s commitment to bring the killers to justice felt hollow one month after the attack. But when Romney accused the president of blithely hitting the campaign trail instead of focusing on the crisis, President Obama’s response reflected real outrage at having matters of war and peace reduced to cheap political attacks. It was a defining moment.

The flip-flops came fast and furious, from new support for Pell Grants to the Dream Act, to name just a few. I’m looking forward to a full fact check list. I was surprised that more social issues questions, on choice and marriage equality, didn’t get asked. Energy and immigration got their fill of time, and China bashing was a favorite topic, not coincidentally because it resonates particularly well in Ohio. President Obama also had a notable moment of unusual honesty for a politician, telling a questioner frankly “some of these jobs aren’t coming back.”

Romney’s strongest suit in this campaign, his edge on questions of deficits and debt, came up rarely. The canned lines fell flat. And in Romney’s closing statement, he suddenly chose to speak more frankly about his faith than at any time yet, showing a warmth that had been missing for most of the debate.

President Obama chose his closing statement to offer an unexpected defense of American Individualism while getting in a dig at Romney’s 47% statement. Overall, the performance was everything Obama failed to do in the first debate: engaged and energetic, balancing vision with stats. He still hasn’t offered a clear second-term agenda, a persistent weakness of his campaign. But the personal and policy contrast was clear, and Obama came out on the winning side of this second debate.