In part, though they would never phrase it this way, some of Obama's top advisors are veering toward the John Sununu explanation of what happened Wednesday night.
Obama didn't put enough time and energy into prepping.
(Sununu over the past couple of days has been calling Obama lazy - though to Sununu's credit, he did not use the N-word, at least not in the comments I heard.)
Obama's top aides say their guy approached the practice sessions "without enough urgency and focus," as The Times put it.
Also, the Obama team did not realize that, on the debate stage, they would be confronting a Republican who would be portraying himself as a liberal on socio-ecnomomic policy.
In other words, they did not absorb the revealing comments some months ago of the Romeny aide who -- in an unguarded moment - called Mitt an etch-a-sketch guy, one who could change in a minute and tell you what you wanted to hear, truth be damned.
Obama was thrown off by the sheer dishonesty, by the well-painted surface change in character.
Another point Obama's aides concede is that the President simply did not take Romney seriously, apparently viewing Romney as the bumbling, clumsy jerk many Americans saw when Romney was in England for the Olympics.
That's the danger of the lowered expectations, a danger that TV pundits had been warning about in the run-up to the debates.
Except for Chris Christie, who came out and said boldly that Romney was going to kick some butt on Wednesday, Romney's closest advisers made no such boasts.
Regarding Obama's failures to go after Romney's comments about the 47 percent -- which saw Romney belittling nearly half the U.S. population -- it's said that there was a fear Romney had prepared some retort that would undo the damage.
That above explanation seems like an unspoken acknowledgement of poor preparation, and it's hard to imagine David Axelrod or Stephanie Cutter letting that get by.
But part of the reason Obama never went after the 47 percent comments -- and didn't go after Romney on Bain Capital -- was that he was too nervous to find an opening for it.
Also, it appears to have been very true what pundits were saying -- about Romeny having been toughened by the very bloody Republican debates of earlier this year. Obama has had no such confrontations in four years.
Of course, Jim Lehrer, the moderator who was weak and out of his time and element, did not help matters. He helped turn the debate into a thing for late-night comedians to mock, from now into the end of the year.
Anyone who has followed Obama is likely to expect the candidate to have gained from his crushing experience.
Obama holds the wisdom of Christian teaching deep within him, including the belief that seeming defeat is an opportunity for learning, as well as the commonly expressed belief that what does not kill you makes you stronger.
Axelrod said of Romney: “He may win the Oscar for his performance last night, but he’s not going to win the presidency.”
He also said that a presidential campaign is like playing sports. “It’s like a playoff in sports . . . You evaluate after every contest and make adjustments.”