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Published October 17 2012

Forum editorial: President showed up this time

In last week’s vice presidential debate and Tuesday night’s presidential debate, the vice president and president had one job to do: erase the image of the president’s dismal showing in the first presidential debate in Denver. Like their politics or not, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama got the job done.

The president’s performance Tuesday night at Hofstra University in New York featured the Obama who did not show up in Denver. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was at the top of his game in Denver, but his problem was his “top” did not look as good when Obama was at the top of his game in New York. So by comparison, Romney seemed to be jogging in place while the president sprinted, often running rhetorical circles around the Republican standard bearer.

Just a few days ago, the vice president was charged with pumping up the perception of the Obama-Biden team, which had taken a hit after the first Obama-Romney debate. In his classic, sometimes grating style, the vice president was able to use his experience and insider status to portray VP candidate Congressman Paul Ryan as an untested ideologue. Republicans did not see it that way and believe Ryan bested Biden. But for Democrats, who were chagrined by Obama’s weakness in the first presidential debate, Biden turned the tide.

And that’s the point in what is shaping up to be one of the closest presidential races in U.S. history. The name of the game now is to ratchet up the intensity among party voters and convince the undecided to tilt your way. Romney did that in the first debate, and post-debate polls showed as much, as the gap between him and the president narrowed. In the past two debates, Biden and Obama dissipated the shock and subsequent discouragement Obama supporters felt after the first debate. And the polls will swing slightly again.

The debates matter this time. Their effects, however small, are important because the race is so close.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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