Mitt Romney politely cleaned Barack Obama’s clock last night. A lethargic and at times tired-looking President Obama was out-hustled, out-facted, out-energized, and out-informed by former Governor Mitt Romney. Unlike in his convention speech, on Wednesday night Romney focused on strong economic issues, developed his philosophy of limited government, and convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in fact a pro-growth tax reformer who wants to lower the rates and broaden the base in a revenue-neutral fashion that will actually create jobs and spur the economy.
This is the first time I have been totally convinced of his tax reform bona fides and principles. Elsewhere in the debate, Romney had to correct President Obama on a number of issues, including oil tax breaks, healthcare issues, job-training programs in the federal government, and even how Obamacare works. Romney’s knowledge base was broad and deep, much broader and deeper than President Obama showed Wednesday night.
At times, Obama looked petulant because he knew he was being beaten and he knew he was being outhustled and not in command of the facts. What’s more is that Romney’s demeanor was calm but insistent. You could see a man who is for limited government and private enterprise, who wants to make sure that people understand his commitment to those key principles, and he never wavered. On the other side, you could see Barack Obama committed to big government all the way. Also, we have no new knowledge of what President Obama would do if elected to a second term. We know he opposes everything Romney supports, but we have very little idea about what President Obama actually believes in.
That is because his not-so-hidden agenda is to spend more on government programs, keep pouring money into the losing ventures of green energy, and raise taxes in order to do so. For almost every question, President Obama had a government solution. For almost every question, Mitt Romney had a private-sector solution. My hunch, though he won’t say, is that a re-elected Obama will not only run the table on more big-government spending, not only try to raise taxes on upper-end successful earners, but will move toward a value-added tax. An across-the-board, European style tax would be the only way to finance President Obama’s government-spending dreams.
Finally, Romney went toe-to-toe with President Obama and looked presidential every step of the way. Romney kept an even demeanor, and presented himself as a man who was in control. It was a different Romney than I saw at the convention. It was much more of the Mitt Romney that I have come to know through many interviews and personal conversations throughout the years.
He is indeed the leader of the Republican Party, and he will in fact, with his performance Wednesday night, attract many independent voters. My hunch is that some Democrats who yearn for solutions to our nation’s problems will move into Romney’s camp.
And, by the way, time and again, Romney indicated his openness to bipartisan solutions, particularly on tax reform, but also on healthcare. At one point Romney said there were multiple ways he wanted to achieve tax reform, and he would be happy to take suggestions from the other side of the aisle. Whereas with Obamacare Obama sought no Republican suggestions.
In sum, a huge victory for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Larry Kudlow is the host of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.”