Peggy Noonan’s column sums things up nicely:

It puts forth the reasons why the first debate performances fundamentally altered the race and illuminates some basic character traits in Obama that probably hinder his ability to realistically access a political situation. She further discusses Bob Woodward’s new book “The Price of Politics,” which goes into this angle even more deeply.

Any individual, from whatever ideological background, will likely have difficulty dealing effectively with unpredictable, challenging, random situations when most of what they’ve faced previously has been tightly-controlled, somewhat orchestrated for them, and they’ve been made to always feel (deserved or not, immaterial) that they’re “the smartest person in the room,” as the old saying goes.

Or, to put it even more succinctly, the title of a great book by Wess Roberts: “Straight A’s Never Made Anybody Rich.”

You get the point. Even though sometimes a straight-A person might be a huge success, it’s more often than not the reasonably-bright person who struggles and fights in real life to achieve a difficult goal who ends up being the most successful, because of the lessons they learn along the way.

Obama is not that person, and his demeanor in the first debate (actually, in all of them) reflected such, such a sense of outrage and personal insult that his qualifications as “the smartest guy in the room” was actually even being questioned, that he came across as detached and condescending to an astonishing degree.

Not necessarily to his committed followers, who will love him and his policies no matter what.

Not necessarily to his ardent detractors, who will oppose him and his policies at every turn.

But to the Great Undecideds, who saw two things, neither of which have anything to do with Liberal vs. Conservative ideology:

1. They saw a smug, inflexible, condescending, unyielding person who revealed his “smallness” when challenged on equal terms (for perhaps the first time in his life)
2. They saw a reasonable, competent man who knew the issues and presented himself as a plausible alternative President.

That is why this race has gone from “comfortable Obama” to “toss up.” No other reason. Not because of taxes or Medicare or food stamps or Libya.

Because of emotional smallness vs. heretofore unknown resonableness.

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