In late August, Mitt Romney's chief pollster, asked about the campaign's welfare lie, said, "[W]e're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers." After watching last night, I guess he wasn't kidding.
What will be interesting to watch at this point is whether a meme starts to develop. Phase One of the post-debate analysis saw a consensus quickly coalesce: Romney won with relative ease. Perhaps Phase Two will consider how the Republican managed to do so well?
This is admittedly only a sampling, but this piece from New York's Jon Chait caught my eye:
Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama's listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones.
As did this one from Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson:
Mitt Romney turned in a polished performance in last night's presidential debate – and revealed himself to be an accomplished and unapologetic liar. In an evening where he sought to slice and dice the president with statistics, Romney baldly misrepresented his own policy prescriptions, made up numbers to fit his attacks and buried clear contrasts with the president.
CNN's David Gergen, hardly a liberal, was thinking along the same lines as Chait, saying last night he thinks Obama was surprised that Romney was "flat out lying" during the debate. Plenty of others were thinking along the same lines.
Romney's critics should probably keep expectations low, but if this line of criticism starts to catch on, it could, in theory, step on the Republican's post-debate glow. In fact, the tactics that led to the win could even backfire, doing more harm than good.
As Jonathan Bernstein noted today, "Paul Ryan's convention speech wound up being covered mainly for its mendacity, and that became the story. It seems that there are at least as many factually challenged comments from Romney's debate performance as there were in Ryan's speech."
I'd just add that early this morning, there were signs the DNC and the Obama campaign wasn't sure which direction they'd go in, and initially seemed inclined to launch a "Romney was obnoxious and rude" tack. Seven hour later, the focus has shifted, and the president's allies are far more focused on Romney's dishonesty than his attitude.
It's a dynamic worth watching.