If you don't think debate preparation matters, you didn't watch tonight's debate between the President and Governor Romney. In short, and as much as it pains me to say it, Romney wiped the floor with the President. It was not just that Romney was more energetic and had better control of his "facts," but his preparation was obvious - he was prepared for the President's talking points on subjects like taxes and Medicare and had effective rebuttals. What was more impressive (or shameful, depending on your point of view) was how moderate and reasonable Romney came across as compared to his performances in the Republican primaries, where he was supporting things like self-deportation and "personhood" amendments. This Mitt Romney embraced his record as Massachusetts Governor, sounded a bi-partisan tone and could have been mistaken for what used to be called a Rockefeller Republican.
Obama on the other hand sounded tired and leaned heavily on bullet points that came right out of his stump speech. He missed clear opportunities to push back on Romney's statements, never mentioned the "47 percent" comments that have dogged Romney's campaign and actually went out of his way to point out places where the two candidates agreed on things. Perhaps it is the difference between balancing the responsibilities of the job and preparing for something as high stakes as a Presidential debate, but Obama did not have second level facts at his disposal. When chances arose to rebut the Governor's statements, the President passed and allowed a lot of misstatements and flip flops go unanswered. I do not know if that is because he was not briefed on these subjects sufficiently or just did not have his "fastball" tonight, but the President should be prepared for 24 hours of media spin that this race is far from over.