Big Freddy was hunched over his morning newspaper when I joined him for coffee and whatever would follow.
“Are you reading or dozing off?” I asked.
“Truth to tell, I’m drooling,” Freddy said.
“Did you win one somewhere?” I asked.
“Wednesday night,” Freddy said. “We all did. Romney’s finally making this a race.”
“It’s been no contest so far,” I said.
“It is now,” Freddy said. “Obama figured to win in it a cake walk. But Romney took him on the turn for home, smiling all the way.”
“But it’s a long stretch run,” I said.
“Not as long as the back stretch was,” Freddy said.
“Look at what Romney faced a year ago. Months of dealing with the Republican wannabes in a party stretched from as far right as right can get from the middle. He needed to beat everyone, and he did.
“One by one, they dropped off, but he needs to win over their supporters. Especially, he needs the far right, so he picks Paul Ryan as his running mate, which makes them as happy can get — less than somewhat but a lot more than nothing.”
“But that raises concerns among the middle and the unaligned voters and gives Democrats a big fat bull’s eye,” I said.
“Yes, but a vice president gets to stand over there in the corner for four years to speak when spoken to,” Freddy said. “They get to do what presidents want them to do, which, in this case is for Ryan to do all he can to keep his supporters in line to beat Obama. So, Romney makes the right wing happy, which frees him to move to where he’s comfortable finding common ground where things get done.
“Obama sees this as a gift, and the debate on Wednesday night was going to be a breather for him — except it wasn’t, It was anything but.
“A different Romney shows up to party at his expense, smiling, unruffled, with Obama on his hip until time runs out.
“The right of center Romney?” I asked.
“Forget the right and left business,” Freddy said. “The practical dealer Romney who had no real trouble getting along with the Massachusetts House and Senate when he was governor to get his health care bill passed,” Freddy said. “The politically seasoned Romney who catches Obama off beat Wednesday night.”
“One night does not a winner make,” I said., “Obama still owns the bully pulpit of the presidency, and he’ll retool his race fast.”
“But he’s dealing with a Washington that’s torn apart with both sides are to blame,” Freddy said.
“He surprised everybody Wednesday night when he agreed with Romney on a couple of issues.
“He’s no dummy. He sees what Romney sees. Congress is a basket case, and he has to deal with all of it and not just his party because he is the president of the United States.”
“That’s what Romney’s getting credit for doing as a challenger on Wednesday night,” I said. “What he really did as the first step — he takes charge of his party, and that’s what Obama has to do as well.”
“Neither one of them is going to have a picnic as president as long as Congress is at stalemate. They need to find common ground — that means cool heads from both parties finding ways to do what needs doing. America is in crisis — the cause is from within, and it has to start with leaders of both parties to get their hard liners to ease up for the good of the whole.”
Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist.