Obama's strategy, last night, seems to have been clear. The president wanted to wound his opponent early with the specific goal of forcing the public to see past the media hype and understand Romney for who he really is: an angry, out of touch tycoon itching to unleash his callous and destructive economic program like a wrecking ball swinging at the very foundation of working families across America.
And wound him he did.
If anything, the second debate will be remembered as the moment when President Obama crafted a performance that forced Mitt Romney into some of the most uncomfortable television moments ever hatched by a presidential candidate.
At several points, for example, Romney seemed so frustrated by the fact that he was falling behind in a question that he stood up and walked towards the president -- coming close enough for viewers to wonder if the debate was about to descend into physical altercation.
At other points, Romney fired short and insistent demands for answers at the President, as if Obama were a subordinate required to answer every obnoxious demand put to him. When Romney did not get the answer he wanted right away, he kept firing the same demands at him.
And at other points, Romney just sounded so peculiar that anyone watching could not help but (a) laugh out loud, (b) look around for hidden cameras or (c) start a parody website made from the exact wording of a Romney debate snippet.
One cannot attribute everything to Obama's early wounding of Romney, but the general frenzy and confusion that spurted forth from the GOP side of the rug last night was without question a product of a man quickly forced out of his comfort zone.
And what did we see of Mitt Romney? What did this wounded elephant reveal about himself?
What the public saw was an executive personality rooted in a deep, never challenged sense of entitlement -- a man visibly angered by challenges to his opinions, no matter how outrageous or rooted in falsehoods his opinions may be.
Even more startling, we saw a man unable to get himself back under control once his buttons are pushed -- a hothead whose emotions get the best of him at precisely those moments that call for maturity and reserve.
All this added up to quite a menacing image of Mitt Romney as a potential leader. Curiously, this hostile side had yet to be revealed behind the endless repetitions that Romney is a man with no moral rudder that have resulted from his ever-shifting and contradictory policy positions.
Obama brought this out of Romney in the debate, last night -- a side of Romney that is not just unlikable, but threatening.
Thus, in an arena that has become so devoid of "ah, ha" moments with regard to campaign policy positions, the second debate proved to be a forum for evaluating the candidate's character.
If a large swath of the country is admiring Obama for standing tall again while they laugh at Romney for his odd "binder full of women" remark, we would be wise to reflect a bit more on the man we saw Mitt Romney become once wounded.
That bullying, threatening, menacing Mitt will likely be here until the bitter end.