There have been a number of suggestions, particularly from ex-Vice President Al Gore, that President Obama's lackluster performance had a meteorological origin (the effects of low atmospheric pressure in Denver on the President's mental functions). Now a number of folks criticized this explanation, and they may be right, but I have an alternative. Something else meteorological happened during the debates that has not gotten a lot of press.
Now, first lets consider the pressure change idea...that the President flew into Denver that afternoon, while Governor Romney spent days in the mile-high city (which the pressure is about 15% less than at sea level). One should note that the President spent several days in Las Vegas, Nevada
(altitude 2402 ft), where the pressure is roughly half way between sea level pressure and that at Denver. Furthermore, typical commercial aircraft are pressurized to roughly 7000 ft, so all his flight time would be promoting adjustment to lower pressure. Finally, as far as I know, there is no scientific literature even suggesting much cognitive loss for even a rapid change from sea level to 5000 ft.
But perhaps Al Gore was on to something. Well, if it was not pressure, something else meteorological happened EXACTLY THE SAME TIME AS THE DEBATE IN DENVER. The answer: an extraordinarily strong front passage, with a 20F drop in temperature in less than an hour, a rapid increase in pressure, and winds gusting to 40-50 mph! Here are observations at the BAO tower in Boulder demonstrating this AMAZING front.
Many presidents are weather lovers (Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln come to mind) and I suspect Obama is as well. How can one pay attention when so much interesting and severe weather is happening outside? I know I am greatly distracted when a storm is brewing outside....perhaps President Obama was as well.