The Washington Post

After a poor first debate, Obama must shape up


Patterson, at age 21, was the youngest man to win the heavyweight boxing title. He was handsome, a hard puncher, a former boxing Olympic gold medalist, and modest. He was not a hunter. Patterson liked to win. But he also liked to be liked. He had no taste for the jugular.

After winning the heavyweight, title at age 21, Patterson dusted off three contenders who never should have joined him in the ring. But when he went up against Johansson, Sweden’s top heavyweight, Patterson met, well not quite his match, but, a fighter who wasn’t the least bit scared of him, and who could, most important of all, hit, and hit hard. Johansson whipped Patterson, knocking the champion down seven times in the third round before the referee stopped the fight.

Patterson regained his title in a rematch, and defeated Johansson in a third contest. But the similarity to tonight’s presidential debate is inescapable: Obama got his butt kicked in Denver by a contender who was well prepared, unafraid, and willing to take it to his opponent regardless of the rules of engagement. Romney put Obama on the canvas tonight.

Can the president clear his head, regain his footing, and find some fortitude within himself for the next contest? He had better do so. Otherwise, he has the title “former” in his future.

Colbert I. “Colby” King writes a column -- sometimes about D.C., sometimes about politics -- on that runs on Saturdays. In 2003, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. King joined the Post’s editorial board in 1990 and served as deputy editorial page editor from 2000 to 2007.

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