Sometimes the news is what didn't happen. In the Denver debate, President Barack Obama didn't mention Mitt Romney's 47 percent fiasco, Bain Capital, the American Jobs Act or the rescue of the auto industry (except in passing). This meant that Obama's free media (in this case, the debates) wasn't aligned with his paid media, which is exactly where you don't want to be in politics.

It wasn't just that the president seemed low-energy and as if he wanted to be somewhere else. Obama simply didn't execute any strategy that he might have had going into the debate. It was as if he figured he could skate through without a plan.

An Obama supporter I know said it seemed as if Romney was the president and Obama was the secretary of education.

Even so, the news media is overreacting. It's clear Romney helped himself in Denver, but he may need a 3-to-0 record in the debates to pull off a win on Election Day.

(Jonathan Alter is a columnist for Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter.)

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