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RUSH: I want to tell you what my intention is today. I hope it happens. I want to try to hold myself back just a little, just a little, ’cause I know that you are tuned in here to find out what I think, and, therefore, what really happened last night. But I also want to hear from you as well. I really want to know what some of you think about last night, because it’s all over the place. In my circle of friends there’s nothing that has developed as a consensus. So, in addition to my sharing with you what really happened last night, I am curious as to your take on this. So many observations to make.

You know, one thing that Barack Obama has always had going for him is his likability. The fact that everybody said and everybody thought that he was a nice guy, and he was not that last night. He was not likable. In spades he was not likable last night. He was petulant. He was childish. He was arrogant. He was immature. And I thought throughout the debate, that while he might have been scoring debate points, he was eroding a lot of the positives that people have just assumed about the guy. I’ve never understood the likability, but we have to admit that it’s been a factor. People thought Obama was a nice, likable guy. Last night, I guess he graduated from the Joe Biden School, because he wasn’t likable.

Also, I’ve gone through the lib media. They’re despondent today. The lib media in the newspapers are despondent because they can’t say that Obama won, because he didn’t. In the way in which they needed him to win, which was a Romney implosion, they didn’t get that. They needed Romney to do something to stop his Mittmentum, and that didn’t happen, and they are despondent. We’ve got the sound bite coming. There are focus groups all over the place. The Luntz focus group on Fox. You didn’t see this Snerdley. Snerdley and Dawn went to the debate last night. They got front row media seats in the media center, 3,000 people, and all the other media were ticked off that they ended up in the front row. They didn’t like that at all, folks.

Some little local Miami media guy walks up and sees the media tags that Dawn and Snerdley were wearing, “Oh, Rush Limbaugh, it’s amazing he’s even around.” And Dawn just lit into this guy, and he ended up apologizing and said he didn’t mean anything about it. And Dawn: “Yes, you did! Shut up!” Snerdley, in the meantime, apparently was hustling chicks, from the reports that I got, while sitting in the front row. (laughing) That’s right, the good EIB corporate image was on full display last night.

At any rate, something else that I find fascinating. You know, the biggest problem, well, not the biggest problem — one of the complaints, the biggest rap on Romney that we’re hearing from the media this morning is he agreed with Obama too much. In fact, a lot of people on our side thought he agreed with Obama too much. A lot of people on our side didn’t like that debate last night, folks, I’ll just tell you. If my circle of friends is any indication, a lot of people thought Romney got his clock cleaned, didn’t like it at all, think the election’s lost. I’m not kidding you.

But the biggest rap on Romney that we’re hearing from the media this morning is he agreed with Obama too much, and this is from the same media that’s always wringing their hands and worried about Republicans not working with Democrats and we need bipartisanship. So Romney decided he would be Mr. Malleable last night, and they didn’t like it, and they didn’t like it because Romney did not commit political suicide last night. That’s what was gonna have to happen for the momentum to be reversed. Obama needed a knockout, and it’s debatable in certain sectors whether he even won on points. It’s that unclear.

There is no consensus on this debate no matter where you go. You can find people who think Obama cleaned Romney’s clock. You can find people that think Obama blew it. The opinions are all over the place, and there really isn’t a consensus. There’s not one analysis that anybody could give that everybody would agree with. They’re all over the ballpark. It’s fascinating. It really is.

Which, as it always is, is much more informative about the analysts than it is about the candidates. I mean, you learned about the analysts — you learned who the people are — by virtue of their reaction to this. For myself, I’m sitting watching this, and for the first half hour, I’m scratching my head. Obama gave Romney at least three — and the moderator, Bob Schieffer, actually started off with another.

In the first half hour there were, as I counted ’em, four wide-open opportunities to get into Benghazi, the four dead Americans, and Obama’s incompetence. Romney didn’t even put a toe in the water. Now, I knew throughout that Romney was not having brain freezes. He was not nervous. He wasn’t forgetful. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what to say. It took me a half hour to figure out that there was a strategery here.

Once I understood the strategy that the Romney camp was employing, then the whole thing made sense to me and the original disquietedness and uncomfortableness and dissatisfaction that I was sensing melted away, and I had an entirely different view. I thought from the get-go Obama looked mean. I thought he looked petulant. I thought he did not look likable. I thought from the get-go that Obama was not helping himself.

But I was curious why Romney was not taking these openings. Obama was begging him to! Even in the second half of the debate, Obama was begging Romney to get in on it and mix it up on Libya. Romney wouldn’t go there. If you read the lib media, if you look at these focus groups, like the Luntz focus group last night… There was a CBS focus group in Ohio. I was gonna mention this a moment ago when I got sidetracked describing Snerdley’s activities hustling chicks down there.

There was a focus group of eight people in Ohio — CBS did it — and six of them thought it was a slam dunk for Romney. Every focus group did. Every focus group that I have read about or seen thought that Obama did better in the sense of debate performance, but that Romney cleaned up. Because what mattered overall to everybody (and these were all independents and undecideds) was the economy.

And Obama still has nothing there, folks. He’s got no record. He’s got nothing to defend. He has no retort. He has no comeback. He has no explanation whatsoever. All he has is what we saw. We saw Obama the Community Organizer last night. We saw a panicked, I think, Barack Obama. We saw a guy who I think knows he’s in trouble in Ohio. Other people have this observation, too.

We saw an Obama who appeared to be the challenger, not the leader and not the incumbent. Romney owned that. But the substance of this debate last night irritated many on our side. It is of great concern to many people, the substance of this debate. Now, in terms of the debate’s relevance to the campaign, this debate last night mattered the least in terms of substance.

The substance, in terms of the campaign and affecting votes, mattered hardly at all. Appearances are what mattered. But to people who paid attention to the substance, there were red flags galore on our side about this. Not from me. I was not troubled by any of it once I understood the strategy. I know Romney. I know who he is and I know who he isn’t. I’m not having any problems with the substance of last night.

Krauthammer said it last night (paraphrased): “I would have loved to have taken a baseball bat to Obama on Libya, but I’m not running. I’m not a candidate. And I’ve never done it.” That’s what Krauthammer said. The emotions from last night run the gamut. Well, I’ll give you an example on the substance. Let’s talk about Afghanistan. Our policy, as articulated by Obama, is to pull out of there in 2014.

Romney agreed with it.

Now, a lot of people on our side just had a near panic attack over that, and I’ll tell you why. Superpowers, real superpowers do not determine when they are going to leave someplace — particularly a war — by virtue of a date. You leave after you’ve won! For a superpower to decide to leave on a date, regardless, is a very big red flag to people who are very invested in this stuff.

People have no choice but than to take Romney seriously. I think Romney had an entirely different agenda than substance last night. I think there was… Well, that’s not the correct way to say that, either. Because honestly again: I thought when it came to sounding informed and knowledgeable and assured, it was Romney in spades last night. I thought that, ’cause I also know Obama does not have defensive positions on anything.

Obama had to lie about so much.

Sequestration. His apology tour. All the fact-checking today is fun and interesting but it doesn’t matter because the substance was not a factor. Of the three debates and the relevance to the campaign, the substance of last night’s debate matters the least of the three.


RUSH: I checked the e-mail. “What do you mean, Rush, Obama was unlikable?” Folks, do you really…? That was a slam-dunk observation. Just the split screen, just Obama’s stare. In fact, there was a point in this debate — I think it was the last half, might have been last 15 or 20 minutes.

There was a point in this debate where Obama was staring Romney down viciously (you could see it on the split screen), and it did not distract Romney. Romney was speaking and it didn’t distract him at all. He was jumping in Obama’s chili at the time, and it didn’t stop him. This attempt to intimidate didn’t work at all. I don’t know what you call it when you have a community organizer explaining to Mitt Romney how aircraft carriers work.

(impression) “Uh, Governor Romney, uh, you know, we have these things called ‘aircraft carriers.’ Airplanes land on ’em, and you might not know, but we got boats that go under the water. They’re called ‘submarines.'” Folks, I don’t care who you are. I guarantee you the Drive-By Media was cringing over those things. That’s not presidential. Remember how you have to judge Obama. I told you last time: You have to judge Obama in context of 2008, not the first debate.

Not the second debate, not just this campaign. You’ve gotta go back to who he was in 2008, and he was Mr. Messiah! He was unlike anything this country had ever seen, and it was all positive. He was magic! He was gonna bring everybody together. The old politics was gonna be vanishing. Race relations were going to heal. Postpartisan days were ahead! The world was going to love us. People made of Obama whatever they wanted, and those that made positive vibes of him created this incredible creature.

This caricature of Mr. Perfect.

Chief among the things that he always had going for him was he was likable. In addition to being the first black president, he was a likable first black president. He always had that to fall back on. He always had that to rely on. But last night he wasn’t likable. This whole debate season, Barack Obama was without aid of a teleprompter and (other than one instance of assistance offered by Candy Crowley) without media help.

He was without his usual safeguards and comfort zones. Obama eroded all of the positives that have built up about him. He did it himself. You take his prompter away, you take his supportive media away — you take a protective cocoon of supporters and strategists and so forth away from him and put him out there all on his own — and the real Obama surfaces. And that’s why the media today can’t proclaim him a winner.

He wasn’t likable. They can’t sell him, not with any credibility. They can’t sell the Obama they saw last night. That’s why we haven’t even scratched the surface with these media stories. Here’s the Washington Post: “In Third Debate, Candidates Agree on More Than You’d Think.” They regret that they can’t name Obama the winner. The New York Times, final debate, their editorial?

It’s a rant about Romney, but they also declined to hail Obama as the victor. They do not say that Obama won this last night. Well, there was no momentum shift. Romney didn’t lose a vote last night, and Obama didn’t gain any. Carter Eskew, Washington Post: “Technical Victory for Obama But Gained Little — Despite winning a technical victory, Obama gained little tonight.”

The National Journal. Folks, this one is big, too. National Journal, Ron Fournier. Now, Ron Fournier used to be at the AP. Ron Fournier is as in the tank for Obama as you can get. He is a total partisan… I was gonna say “hack,” but in terms of objective journalists, he’s not. “Obama Wins Third Debate, but Romney Wins Debate Season.” He says, “the state of the race is likely unchanged,” as Mitt “held his own.” And on page three, Fournier finds it unfathomable Obama hasn’t laid out a second-term agenda yet.

This is somebody in his tank! This is somebody who is effectively part of Obama’s campaign. I’m not meaning to offend Ron Fournier here. I’m just illustrating to you the partisan he is, and he couldn’t declare Obama the winner. I’m telling you: They’re disappointed. And they’re disappointed because they believe the caricature they created back in 2008. They believe this omnipotent, greater-than-anyone-else, smarter-than-anyone-else, more-clever-than-anyone-else caricature.

They believe the picture that they painted of him, and he’s illustrated in this campaign that that’s not who he is. He’s actually petty, snarky. He gets upset. This guy can’t even stand being questioned! How dare anybody question him. Daily Beast. Daily Beast! Tina Brown’s publication. Brett O’Donnell: “Obama Wins Third Debate, but Romney Wins Debate War.”

This guy’s echoing Ron Fournier. Obama only “won” because he was the aggressor, but he didn’t win anything. Nothing changed. Associated Press, Charles Babington: “Obama will win the debate on points but it won’t matter much.” You can’t find any positive reviews of Obama. Well, not in the mainstream left-wing press. Here’s Chris Wallace last night, Fox News coverage after the debate.

WALLACE: Obama was slashing, was personal, was cutting. I thought that Romney was big picture, seemed to have much more of an agenda for the future than the president did. And I e-mailed one of his top aides in the course of the debate and said, “What’s behind this strategy?” And clearly he was not taking the bait, not getting into fights with Barack Obama, and this official said, “This is all Mitt Romney’s idea. This is how he wants to conduct this debate.”

RUSH: They asked Bob Portman, Robert Portman, Rob Portman who’s been portraying Obama in Romney debate rehearsals. They had him on Fox. He’s a great guy, by the way. He’s a little too moderate for a bunch of conservatives, but I like him. I’ve met him. He and his wife, they’re just hilarious. They’re great people.

Portman was asked, “Well, whose strategy was this?” Portman said (paraphrased), “It was Governor Romney’s. You know, we’re here for the ride, but he makes the call on this stuff.” And Chris Wallace right on the money. Whatever happened last night, this was Romney’s strategy. He came up with it and executed it for whatever reasons he had.

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