Even as today’s jobs report data seems to make this week’s debate all too distant from the real-time news cycle, President Barack Obama’s supporters are still quietly smarting in the aftermath of his alleged lackluster performance.  But what if the president had responded in kind to Governor Romney’s refashioning of the facts during the debate?

What if Obama had put the smack down on Mr. Romney immediately following his denial of tax breaks for corporate outsourcing?

What if President Obama had highlighted Mr. Romney’s penchant for firing people as Mr. Romney was so gleefully (if figuratively) firing Mr. Lehrer and Big Bird?

What if the President had suggested that Mr. Romney stop hiding his own tax returns from the American people?

What if he had mentioned the “47 percent” that Romney depicted as listless moochers?

In short, what if President Obama had gotten mad – really mad – and responded to Mr. Romney with the full force of his rhetorical abilities?

If he had been the great debater that so many of his supporters wanted him to be, yesterday’s news cycle would’ve been completely different. Instead of nearly every news outlet rehashing the Obama for America talking points – most of which were all about debunking and/or fact-checking Mitt Romney’s dance with the truth (of his own positions as well as reality itself)  — news personalities would have been rehashing the debate itself.

Maybe they would have discussed more of the policy-laden exchanges, but the outrage, which from a distance reads/views as enthusiasm, would have been non-existent.  The studious attention to Mitt Romney’s pivot to the center would have been lost on most news networks’ concerted attempts to “Monday quarterback” the debates.

In effect, a news cycle that was almost wholly devoted to underscoring Romney’s lack of authenticity would have been a diffuse rehashing of the debate itself, instead of what it was: a series of energetic rationales for why we should re-elect this president.

Consider the fact that Sean Hannity had to give Romney an opportunity to disavow his 47 percent comments because the president did not.

In the immediate run-up to the debate, right-wing bloggers in concert with Fox News “revealed” a 2007 Obama campaign speech delivered at Hampton University that, according to them, reflected the president’s penchant for angry, racially divisive politics. It’s not hard to imagine that the president’s strategists saw this as a red herring. It may be difficult for many to consider that a lowbrow distraction designed by Tucker Carlson could affect the president’s debate strategy, but once we consider the demographics of the undecided, the sad capacity for some to drink the Fox flavored Kool Aid, and the facts of the post-debate news coverage, maybe the president’s restrained performance on Wednesday night makes a little more sense.