Leading up to last weekís debate, I was anxious to see it but concerned I wouldnít be able to watch both sides.

Leading up to last weekís debate, I was anxious to see it but concerned I wouldnít be able to watch both sides. I have a problem listening to Barack Obama and typically leave the room or channel surf when heís talking.

I donít dislike him on a personal level but absolutely loathe what he and his posse are doing to this country. However, diluting some of my venom in the name of fairness, I admit that the president impressed me on one level: He did make a stellar effort defending the indefensible. At times during the debate, I actually felt sorry for him.

In the lead-up to this faceoff, I had wondered how President Obama was going to navigate through an hour and a half without good facts or teleprompter. He was on his own and, to his credit, dealt through his whole deck of talking point cards, which was about all he had to play with.

I now understand better how he won the office in the first place. Heís a good speaker and has a pleasing wit. But on this go-round, the shine is off the apple.

Heís no longer an unknown quantity. He has a record that has morphed into a four-year-old fiscal albatross around his neck and itís beginning to smell, even to some in his own party.

Reality has mostly trumped his charm. In fact, in the aftermath of this debate some of his most ardent supporters questioned some of his messaging mantras. I donít know it to be true but I heard Chris Matthewsí tingling leg miraculously cleared up. Shazam!

Suffice it to say Iím pleased at the turn of events. I donít believe Romneyís momentum will be fleeting. Itís becoming more and more apparent that the country doesnít need eye candy in the oval office; itís in dire need of brain candy.

I know Iím ringing some liberal bells. You readers wouldnít believe the growling and foaming that comes to me through emails on this subject. I enjoy it.

Thereís something else I especially enjoyed about this debate that has nothing to do with politics. Election processes such as these debates reinforce the wonder of our governing system and political culture.

In many countries, two such polar opposite candidates on the same stage would likely erupt in gunfire. How many news stories have you seen about fights and even stabbings occurring in some foreign governmentsí legislative chambers?

Itís a wonderful thing that after two such dissimilar opponents sparred in front of the country, they and their families could meet onstage with civility and respect for the process. It speaks volumes about the depth and quality of our system.

I hope Barack Obama is defeated in November. If that happens, fully expect him to facilitate the transition with grace and class as should Romney if he loses.

Iím aware that much of politics is a dog-and-pony show for public consumption. But Iím convinced the United Statesí dogs and ponies are thoroughbreds of the highest order.

 Otis Gardnerís column appears here weekly. He can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.