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Ron Nehring

Winner: Romney

President Obama is not happy these days, and it’s showing. In the second debate with Mitt Romney last night, Mr. Obama’s bitter, condescending, and generally negative delivery underscores this is a man who has lost control.

After his disastrous performance in the first debate, I told Politico that Mr. Obama was in a tough spot. He would be under pressure to be aggressive to please his base and show them not all is lost, but he risked coming across as angry. And he did.

ROMNEY ANSWERED THE QUESTIONS, OBAMA WENT INTO RHEARSED POINTS. In the town hall format candidates must balance their key message points against a need to respond to the question posed to them by a member of the audience. Mr. Romney’s responses actually answered the questions while Mr. Obama used each question as an excuse to tell a rehearsed story and repeat planned talking points. The intense debate preparation Mr. Obama went through down in Williamsburg was no doubt a great deal of rehearsal delivering scripted responses that were probably tested with focus groups as well.

CNN’S CANDY CROWLEY BLOWS IT WITH ON THE SPOT FACT CHECK. One of Mr. Obama’s most important failures recently is the shifting story concerning the murder of our ambassador and diplomatic staff in Benghazi. Unfortunately, on this point the debate moderator Candy Crowley decided to play on-the-spot fact checker and got it wrong, obscuring one of the most important points of the debate.

Contrary to Crowley’s assertion that Mr. Obama had called the attack in Benghazi a terror attack the next day in the Rose Garden, he did not. In fact, for two weeks following the attack the Administration uniformly referred to it as a result of a spontaneous protest over an obscure film that offended Muslims.

Mr. Romney was prepared a delivered a serious blow to Mr. Obama by pointing out the Administration’s spin on Benghazi but ran into Ms. Crowley running interference. This was yet another setback for the mainstream media in these debates.

STILL NO ECONOMIC PLAN FROM THE PRESIDENT. Missing from the debate was any appearance of a second term economic agenda from Mr. Obama – an important omission in an environment where the economy is by far the top issue on people’s minds. We do know that Mr. Obama believes taxes are not high enough, we need more regulations, and he lacks any real interest in curbing spending. We know this not from an economic plan, but rather from his record.

ROMNEY TURNED THE WOMEN’S PAY ISSUE TO HIS ADVANTAGE. For Democrats, women’s pay equity is a favorite. One would think that with total control of Washington in his first two years, if there was a solution to this the Democrats would have solved it and been done with it. Yet, the women in CNN’s undecided voter focus group loved Mr. Romney’s answer to the issue, pointing to his record as Governor and how he went about finding more women for his cabinet. What could have been a clear winner for Mr. Obama in the debate instead benefitted Mr. Romney.

HOPE AND CHANGE HAS COME AND GONE. The positive, optimistic candidate of hope and change is gone. Mr. Obama has descended into the realm of bitterness and frustration, and it consistently shows in these debates. Despite a slogan of “Forward,” there is no positive vision of the future in Mr. Obama’s rhetoric.

ROMNEY DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM BUSH IN TARGETED, FOCUSED WAY AND PULLS IT OFF. Mr. Romney needed to respond to the question concerning what separates him from President Bush in way that would translate into a net positive for him without alienating Republicans or appearing to throw his own party under the bus. The thrust of his answer was that President Bush had different policies for different times, and that was the right answer. He also threw in some criticism of spending under the former President, but in the same breath noted how much worse the problem is under Mr. Obama.

Finally, on all the issues that count, Mr. Romney won the day according to CNN’s post debate poll which found voters say Mr. Romney would do a better economy on the budget, the deficit, and the economy – all of which are the top issues on the minds of voters.

Absent some major domestic or international development, the candidates have only one more shot to fundamentally shift this campaign’s dynamic. As of today, the momentum still favors Mr. Romney.