Although the first presidential debate allowed Mitt Romney to emerge from the caricature Obama had created for him, exchanges in the second and third debates truly highlighted the difference between the incumbent and the challenger.
For during the last two debates, Obama came across as someone who's drawn his values and policy positions from books while Romney came across as someone who's drawn his values and policy positions from the life he's lived.
You can see this in Obama's approach to gun control, as discussed in the second debate. Although gun control has failed everywhere it's tried, Obama sticks to the hard-left playbook and intimates more of it on the federal level if he can get a second term. Romney, on the other hand, who has been open to arguments for small increments of gun control in the past, relies on his life experience to understand that more gun control is not the answer.
Instead, Romney stood at the second debate and said: "I'm not in favor of new legislation on guns or taking away guns or making certain guns illegal." Rather, Romney said he supports the enforcement of laws already on the books.
Or think about the discussion of Afghanistan during the third debate. Obama said troops are coming home in 2014 -- period. Romney said he agrees with that plan as an ideal but that conditions must be right for it to happen.
This was very telling for those who are aware of what's happened in Iraq since we pulled out. Since that time, Iraq has strengthened ties with Iran, and the country's Al Qaeda affiliate has become reinvigorated. In fact, we now know Iraq's Al Qaeda affiliate was part of the core group in the Benghazi attack.
Yet Obama doesn't see his own failure here. Instead he just looks to the next country -- Afghanistan, in this case -- and says we're similarly getting out of there in 2014, come hell or high water. Romney, on the other hand, looks at it and says we'll get out of there if the conditions are right.
Romney isn't saying the U.S. shouldn't leave in 2014; he's just saying a troop pullout is a theory that must be substantiated by reality when 2014 gets here.
Of course, we don't have to look that far out to see the differences between Obama and Romney.
Stark differences were evident on Oct. 29, as hurricane Sandy neared landfall and Obama took to the airwaves to explain everything he planned to do in the wake of the hurricane. Romney, on the other hand, used one of his campaign buses to deliver supplies before the hurricane arrived.
Again, Obama's help is theoretical while Romney's is real and practical.
This juxtaposition also works with the economy, where Obama just keeps spending, just keeps raising taxes, just keeps increasing the deficit, and yet pledges to do just the opposite. All the while, Romney has firsthand experience in the creation of capital, the benefit of lower taxes, decreased spending, and lowered deficits.
Of the two men who will be on the ballot on Nov 6, one is theoretical and one is real. And the theoretical one has spent the last four years running this country into the ground.