Mitt Romney in last night’s debate gave some compelling answers in attacking the president’s record on the economy. His most effective in the debate, if not the campaign, may have been this:

You could easily see this in an ad. “You know better” is, in essence, the heart of Romney’s closing argument against President Obama.

Romney is not only right on the substance but his more-in-sadness-than-in-anger is the right tone to capture independent voters looking for a reason to dump the president.

Despite a peppier demeanor, Obama never responded adequately to that. Really, what’s he going to say? Moreover, after all this time there was still no evidence of a significant Obama second-term agenda. (He seemed indignant that Romney had suggested hiring 100,000 teachers when 23 million people are out of work won’t grow the economy. No, it really won't, Mr. President.)

As for Romney’s own agenda, his most effective description (aside from his systematic debunking of the argument that he and President George W. Bush are for the same policies) was on energy, which certainly will be part of the closing argument in such states as Ohio and Virginia. On that he argued:

Well, let’s look at the president’s policies, all right, as opposed to the rhetoric, because we’ve had four years of policies being played out. And the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters. So where’d the increase come from? Well, a lot of it came from the Bakken Range in North Dakota. What was his participation there? The administration brought a criminal action against the people drilling up there for oil, this massive new resource we have. And what was the cost? Twenty or 25 birds were killed, and they brought out a migratory bird act to go after them on a criminal basis.

Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities — ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix. But what we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas. This has not been Oil or Gas or Coal. Talk to the people that are working in those industries. I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and say, please, save my job. The head of the EPA said, you can’t build a coal plant. You’ll virtually — it’s virtually impossible, given our regulations. When the president ran for office, he said, if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you’ll go bankrupt. That’s not the right course for America. Let’s take advantage of the energy resources we have, as well as the energy sources for the future. And if we do that, if we do what I am planning on doing, which is getting us energy-independent, North American energy independence within eight years, you’re going to see manufacturing come back jobs because our energy is low-cost.

They’re already beginning to come back because of our abundant energy.

I’ll get America and North America energy-independent. I’ll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses. We’re going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the president said no to that pipeline, I will never know. This is about bringing good jobs back for the middle class of America, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Fact checkers confirmed that Obama’s denial that he’d cut permits in half was false.

In short, Romney’s argument (like any challenger’s) is in effect: “The president didn’t get the job done, he isn’t offering something new and I am.” It’s proved impossible for Obama to convince voters he’s done a good job or that the economy is improving. In the debate he also ceded ground on the “do something different” front. Romney is now in a position to close the sale with voters. He’s got one more debate, but time and momentum remain his allies.