When one gets away from the momentary panic that many Obama supporters had after last night’s debate against Mitt Romney, and thinks rationally, and analyzes Presidential debate history, it is not all that surprising that a challenger will go on the attack and be aggressive with a sitting President, and set him back in the first debate they have in a campaign year.
Remember that a sitting President is busy every day, and is not as up to date in debating as a challenger, who has had to survive many debates and questions in order to reach the point of a Presidential nomination.
So when we look at the past, we realize the following:
Gerald Ford was on the defensive against Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Jimmy Carter was on the defensive against Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Ronald Reagan was on the defensive against Walter Mondale in 1984.
George H. W. Bush was on the defensive against both Bill Clinton and Ross Perot in 1992.
George W. Bush was on the defensive against John Kerry in 2004.
Despite this reality, Reagan and the second Bush recovered to win, while Ford, Carter, and the first Bush lost the election that ensued.
But also realize that Ford had inherited a mess from Richard Nixon, and had never seen himself in the Presidency before being selected by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew as Vice President, and he was strongly challenged by Ronald Reagan in the primaries in 1976.
Also realize that Jimmy Carter was challenged by both Ted Kennedy and Jerry Brown in the primaries in 1980, and faced a charismatic former actor in Reagan, and a tumultuous crisis with Iran in 1980.
And realize that the first Bush faced a challenge from Pat Buchanan in the primaries in 1992, and a double challenge from Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, which undermined his ability to win votes that Perot took away from him in the fall campaign.
Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush faced no such challenges, and were able to overcome their weaknesses in the first debate of 1984 and 2004.
Additionally, Bill Clinton, facing no challenge in 1996, simply overwhelmed Bob Dole in the first and all debates of that year, with his charisma a major plus!
If one remains calm, one realizes that Barack Obama will recover from this disappointing debate, has charisma, had no challenger in the primaries, and therefore, will do like Reagan, Clinton, and the second Bush did–win reelection—-rather than lose election as Ford did, and reelection as Carter and the first Bush did!