The passion comes from what Romney is running against. For more than four years, without pause, Republicans have been campaigning and propagandizing against an imaginary Obama. At the most grotesque end of the fantasies, he is a foreign-born, anti-colonialist Muslim. In more reputable precincts, he is a power-mad socialist and a dumb affirmative-action baby, promoted all the way to the presidency by a race-crazed, condescending liberal elite. (As if the presidency of the Harvard Law Review were awarded to anyone but the hungriest shark in the shark tank.) This is the position of the party's mandarins and reputable spinners—that Obama was foisted off on regular Americans against their will, despite all those votes last time around. Hence the baiting of Obama, throughout his term, for supposedly being unable to speak without a teleprompter. Republicans predicted, over and over, that the president would be exposed and humiliated in face-to-face debate with an opponent (Newt Gingrich especially fantasized about being that foe). Eventually this led to Clint Eastwood haranguing the empty chair. And then in the first presidential debate, Obama was slack and ineffectual against a sharp Romney. See? It was true! And then Obama shredded Romney in the second debate, and kept cuffing him around in the third. Now Romney was the deflating balloon, wild-eyed and babbling and licking his dry mouth in desperation. From which Peggy Noonan—whose proudest credential is having written the scripts for a Republican president who couldn't function without being fed his lines—concluded in the Wall Street Journal that the only meaningful debate was the first one.