Michelle Goldberg on the GOP’s Delusional Debate Night

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Here is a major difference between liberals and conservatives. After President Obama’s abysmal performance in the first debate, liberals were rending their garments and proclaiming everything lost. After Mitt Romney’s equally bad performance on Tuesday night, many conservatives were either declaring him the winner or blaming his loss on Candy Crowley. "Game, set, of the best debate performances ever by Mitt Romney," tweeted Sean Hannity. The left has a weakness for despair, the right, for delusion.

I have no idea if Romney’s poor showing will change the momentum of the campaign the way Obama’s did. Nevertheless, the night scarcely could have gone better for the president. The hectoring, hyped-up alpha male attitude that served Romney so well in the first debate seemed, in the context of a town hall, bullying and slightly unhinged. His whining about not getting enough time was a reminder of his petulant, entitled side. Obama’s confidence, his evident connection with the audience, seems to have badly rattled his opponent, leading to errors that were entirely unforced.

The question about Libya, for example, should have offered Romney a chance to put Obama on the defensive. Instead, he clung to the mendacious conservative claim that the administration refused to call the attack in Benghazi an act of terror, even as Crowley corrected him in real time. He ended up looking both uninformed and petty. Then, in response to the night’s final question—an absurd softball about the ways in which he’s most misunderstood—he said he cared about “100 percent” of Americans, giving Obama an opening to bring up the infamous 47 percent video, which, until then, had gone unmentioned. For the president, it was the perfect note to end on.

At least some people on the right must realize this, even if they’re not admitting it publicly. Online on Tuesday night, some were channeling their rage toward Katherine Fenton, who asked the question about equal pay for men and women. Michelle Malkin referred to her as a “#ladyparts tool,” while Fox’s Greg Gutfeld compared her with Sandra Fluke.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted a tweet from Charles Krauthammer that was in reference to the first debate.