THE WIZARD OF OBAMA: Bill McGurn writes, “The president didn’t just lose a debate. He lost an entire image of genius and control:”

After President Reagan’s listless performance in the first presidential debate of 1984 raised speculation that he was too old for the job, the Gipper took command in the second debate. Of his opponent Walter Mondale, Reagan famously said that he wouldn’t try to score political points by exploiting his opponent’s youth and inexperience.

Perhaps Barack Obama can likewise reassert himself in Tuesday evening’s town hall in Long Island. But his problem is this: In Denver he didn’t just lose a debateā€”he lost the carefully cultivated illusion of a larger-than-life figure who was Lincoln and FDR and Moses all wrapped in one.

To paraphrase Hemingway, how do you go intellectually bankrupt? Two ways: Gradually, then suddenly.