Throughout his career, Mitt Romney has been an overachiever. Yet that side of Romney has been largely absent throughout the presidential campaign. During the general election especially, Americans have seen a Romney who has looked awkward and overly cautious. He gave a pedestrian convention speech and seemed to lack a clear strategy for winning the campaign. This Romney was difficult to reconcile with the biography of somebody who has been tremendously successful at most things he’s tried.

No matter what a person feels about him politically, it’s undeniable that Romney has some impressive accomplishments. He simultaneously earned businesses and law degrees from Harvard; rose to the top at the highly competitive Bain & Co.;  founded the offshoot Bain Capital, earning tremendous returns for himself and his investors; and he turned around the Olympics in Salt Lake City that had been plagued by debt and corruption.

Though there were flashes of it during the primary season, last night Americans got there first glimpse of this side of Romney. His debate performance was no accident — it was the result of his ability to process data and absorb information, combined with countless hours of hard work put into debate preparation. Those qualities, no doubt, are what made him a dynamic businessman.

One strong debate performance won’t win him the election. But if he can keep up this level of intensity for the next month, it will be a whole different race than the one we’ve seen up until Wednesday.

UPDATE: Robert Costa has a great inside look at Romney’s debate prep.