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October 7, 2012

Column: In debate, Romney pulls an October surprise

Isn’t politics fun! We’ve been expecting an October surprise, and we got one!

The Mitt Romney who demolished President Barack Obama in their first debate of the general-election season wasn’t the same candidate at all who has been campaigning for president for the last six years.

Romney was no longer the man whose wealth isolates him from the middle class, pays only 13 percent in taxes, ridicules the 47 percent who owe no federal taxes, disdains public servants such as teachers, outsources jobs overseas, owns offshore bank accounts, promises tax cuts for the wealthy, calls corporations people and vows to gut “Obamacare.”

Debate Romney was an engaging guy who repeatedly vowed to end the misery of the middle class. What’s not to like?

It turns out Bumbling Romney was preparing all along to come out swinging as Moderate Romney, catching a sluggish Obama totally off guard.

There was Obama, prepared to argue that Romney’s across-the-board 20 percent tax-cut pledge would cost $5 trillion (which it would), when Romney gob-smacked him by insisting he had made no such pledge — because he would offset it by still-unexplained loopholes and cuts to popular tax deductions such as home-mortgage interest.

Likewise, Romney was suddenly finding nice things to say about Obamacare, such as its ban on denying insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions and its coverage of children until age 26 by their parents’ policies.

Suddenly, Romney was not castigating Obama for all regulations, but insisting that some, such as moderate restrictions on Wall Street, are very good indeed.

Suddenly, Romney was appealing not to his conservative base, but to swing voters! Obama was so taken aback that all he could do was look down at his lectern or gaze beseechingly at moderator Jim Lehrer. Lehrer, for his part, was completely rolled over by Romney. This will be Lehrer’s last debate.

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