To all you Mittwagoners: Romney was good on camera in the first presidential debate, but what about the hidden camera truth?

I’d love to have a hidden camera on Romney this morning to see how he’s reacting to his performance last night.

Do you think he’s high-fiving Ann? 

Last night was showbiz for Romney. Make no mistake it was a performance, and he was on his game. But was it the truth, the real Romney?

Re-watching parts of the debate this morning, it’s amazing how Obama didn’t seem to have a sense of what game he was playing, as if he were waiting for Romney to be deferential. Debates are about clash, contrasts, and Obama didn’t engage sharply enough. He acted like it was a photo op and not a debate.

Debates are also evanescent, real time events. You’VE got to call your opponent on the spot and press. You can’t rely on fact-checking later to get back. It’s all face value, because the bond with viewer/voters is made emotionally on the impression you give off. So as a debater, you’re either there or you’re not. And Obama wasn’t there. Romney was.

I had mentioned that affirmative action could have been an issue that would speak to Asian Americans. And there were chances to sneak in a line or two about that in the “role of government” section. But there was very little time for that, or for other key domestic issues like abortion, women’s rights, immigrant rights. Obama could have mentioned the 47 percent to sharply contrast where Romney stands on the role of government. Instead, Romney was able to sound like he’s a compassionate supporter of the middle income voter. Laughable, but that’s what happens when the  moderator loses control of the debate and allows the debaters to go at it. In a tightly scripted format where moderators contribution is to say “Time!” a looser conversation can seem  good. But this one got a little out of hand, as Romney took control.

If you saw Romney debate and liked him, just make sure you replay in your head that 47 percent tape. Remember that’s the real Romney. That’s what Romney really thinks. Romney isn’t the prefab Romney. The Romney in the 47 percent tape didn’t show up last night, because the cameras weren’t hidden.

That’s why you can’t trust any favorable impression he may have given last night. We didn’t get the hidden camera truth. When the stakes are this high, it’s the only thing you can trust.