Even if President Obama manages to reverse his slide in the polls and eke out a victory over Mitt Romney on November 6th, he will not be able to take a break from campaigning. That’s because his failure to produce a budget deal with Republicans last summer set up a huge December showdown with Congress over taxes, spending, and debt. And Obama’s evasive debate performance Monday night made that showdown even harder for him to resolve on his terms.

When Romney attacked Obama on the $55 billion in Defense cuts that are scheduled to begin January 1st, commonly referred to as the sequester, Obama replied, “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.” Not only is this statement just plain false, Obama’s aides were forced to immediately retract it after the debate was over.

As The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has painstaking detailed in his book, The Price of Politics, it was Obama’s White House, specifically White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Rob Nabors, who first suggested a defense sequestration to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in July 2011. Contacted for comment after the debate, Woodward affirmed that Obama was 100 percent wrong, but also covered for Obama by suggesting that maybe he was just didn’t know what happened in his own White House:

It’s a complicated process — and in fairness to the president — maybe he didn’t know that they were doing this because it’s kind of technical budget jargon. What I wrote — it’s specific date, time, place, participants. What I’ve reported is totally accurate. Call Nabors and Lew. Or ask the White House. I mean, they know that’s accurate.

Whether Obama is just ignorant or a liar doesn’t really change that fact that his post-election negotiating position, should he hold on to win a second term, just got weaker. By promising not to let the sequester happen he has ceded major ground to Republicans in the fiscal cliff showdown. “It’s interesting that he took sequester off the table — especially since he’s the one who put it there in the first place,” Michael Brumas, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Politico.

If Romney wins, all sides will either agree to a short extension of current policy on taxes and spending till the next president and Congress are sworn into office, or Romney and Congress will undo whatever spending cuts occurred retroactively after they are sworn in. But if Obama wins, all bets are off. Just last week his aides were promising a veto of any deal that did not include tax hikes on the rich. As a result of his mixed signals and lack of leadership, Obama’s second term is guaranteed to have a chaotic start.

From The Washington Examiner
Michael Barone: Affluent suburbs swing to debate-tested Romney
Taylor Holland: Federal budget cuts would cost Fairfax $8.7 billion

Campaign 2012
Polls: Gallup daily tracking has Romney up 51 percent to 46 percent. Washington Post/ABC News daily tracking has Romney up 49 percent to 48 percent.
Obama: At a campaign stop in Toledo, Ohio, a diner patron told Vice President Joe Biden, “Just because you’re a good guy doesn’t mean you’re a good vice president.” The New York Times reports that, contra Obama’s debate assertions, the U.S. military still does use bayonets and horses. And The Des Moines Register reports that the White House forbade from recording Obama’s discussion with the editorial board.

In Other News
Reuters, White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack: Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.
The Wall Street Journal, Weak Earnings Spark Selloff: U.S. stocks lose $500 billion in three days, as Fed’s impact appears to fade.
The Wall Street Journal, Cheap Natural Gas Gives New Hope to the Rust Belt: Plunging prices have turned the U.S. into one of the most profitable places in the world to make chemicals and fertilizer, industries that use gas as both a feedstock and an energy source.
The Washington Post, Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists: Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.” The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Righty Playbook
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has released a new study titled The Imperial Presidency: Implications for Economic Growth & Job Creation
At National Review, Harold Hutchison details how Obama accelerated the Navy’s multi-decade decline.
AEI‘s James Pethokoukis on how Romney really could end the Fed.

Lefty Playbook
New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait argues that Romney’s claims that he is winning are a bluff.
Gawker’s John Cook writes, “2008 Called. It Wants to Know What Happened to Barack Obama.”
Talking Points Memo attacks U.S. Senate candidate Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock for saying, “I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”