One of the main criticisms I've seen of President Obama's debate performance -- which, again, has nothing to do with substance and everything to do with style -- was how timid he seemed. There was no fire, no engagement, no aggressiveness. The president was calm, the argument goes, to the point of detachment.
A half-day later, Obama spoke to supporters in Denver and showed the fiery side that clearly wasn't on display on stage last night.
For those who can't watch clips online, of particular interest were these comments:
"Now, last night, we had our first debate. And when I got on stage, I met a very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney -- because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. But the fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that.
"The real Mitt Romney said we don't need any more teachers in our classrooms. But the fellow on stage last night said he loves teachers -- can't get enough of 'em.
"The Mitt Romney we all know invested in companies that were called "pioneers" of outsourcing jobs to other countries. But the guy on stage last night, he said he's never heard of tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. He said if that's true, he must need a new accountant. Now we know for sure it wasn't the real Mitt Romney -- because he seems to be doing just fine with the accountant he has.
"You see, the man on stage last night – he doesn't want to be held accountable for what the real Mitt Romney's been saying for the last year. And that's because he knows full well that we don't want what he's been selling for the last year. Governor Romney may dance around his positions, but if you want to be President, you owe the American people the truth.
"So here's the truth: Governor Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. And we can't afford to go down that road again. We can't afford another round of budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy. We can't afford to gut our investments in education or clean energy or research and technology. We can't afford to rollback regulations on Wall Street banks or big oil companies or insurance companies. We cannot afford to double down on the same top-down economic policies that got us into this mess. That's not a plan to create jobs. That's not a plan to grow the economy. That's not a change -- that is a relapse.
"Denver, we've been there, we've tried it, and we are not going back. We are going forward."
He also openly mocked Romney's call to cut off PBS: "Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird."
If you're thinking, "Where was this guy last night?" I think it's fair to say a lot of Obama supporters are asking that same question. But I also believe the president sees the debate as a mistake -- one that he intends to correct.