This is the worst it gets, things only go up from here. Did Obama lose the debate? Yes, by failing to hold Romney accountable for his lies and failing to be clear and concise with his own vision, the President lost the debate. But the following is also true: even after a bad debate performance by the President, and recent polling which reflects the public's visceral response to the debate, the President STILL maintains his lead in key swing states.
Let's look at even the worst case scenario presented by averaging all the polls: Romney takes Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, and Missouri. And we even THROW IN Virginia and Iowa for Romney, the President STILL wins the election 275-263. Flip Ohio and North Carolina (where the President maintains a lead of 3%, and same result. Is it tight? Yes. Is it stressful? Yes. Does it come down to the wire? YES! Play around with the numbers a bit, and you will see that most reasonable scenarios still heavily weigh in the President's favor. Romney still has a giant hill to climb.
The race is the President's to lose. Yes, if he gives vacant performances during the final two debates, he could put this race in serious jeopardy. But the President does not need to be a prize fighter and does not need to rhetorically smack the taste out of Romney's mouth during the next debate (even though that would be enjoyable). All the President has to do is to cast some mild doubt on Romney's sincerity, illustrate Romney's now incomprehensible platform to the American people, hold Romney more accountable, and contrast that with the President's own policies in a clear fashion. This is a totally achievable goal, especially for someone who is a good enough politician to win election to the White House.
Yes, the media, especially those at MSNBC, did a bad job of focusing on Romney's incredible 180-degre flip after the debate, and helped shape even a more negative post-debate performance narrative for Obama. But can you can't blame them. They thought they were in for a Romney KO, and instead Obama got tossed around. I was just as shocked and apoplectic immediately after the debate. Even O'Reilly was stunned.
In any event, since that time, MSNBC has been working non-stop in taking apart Romney's lies. Even if the media did a better job at focusing on Romney's lies immediately after the debate, it still stings that the President not only allowed Romney's lies to go unaccounted for, but that he seemed to even agree with them by tacit admission--if someone says something to your face that is a complete bald face lie that denigrates your professional record, and you do not respond or dispute the lie, then it might be assumed that you agree with the lie. But even a slight response or dispute of the lie will be good enough to illustrate to your audience that something is rotten in Denmark--and that's all Obama needs to do, get people sniffing.
To make a baseball analogy, it is the top of the sixth, the other team just brought the score within one run, but you still have the lead and two and a half innings to play. Do you panic? Do you start throwing the bats in the dugout? Do you start to question your manager? No, you settle down, you refocus on the game, and you hold on to your lead.
Of course the President needs to refocus and come better prepared during the next two debates, and if he truly wants the Presidency, that is exactly what he is going to do. I have no doubt this is exactly how he will proceed. And if he doesn't, then what can you do? If he throws the game, you can't stop it.