Republicans, conservatives and fiscal libertarians have been waiting for this day since January 2009. What day, you ask? That glorious day when Obama is exposed as the empty chair Clint Eastwood always knew he was. We thought that Chris Christie would have exposed him, or Marco Rubio, or, hell, Rush Limbaugh or Fox News might have, but to our surprise it was none of our hopefuls or our champions. Instead, our champion was the unlikeliest of men — the Massachusetts Mormon, Mitt Romney.

Romney, as we all know, was never a popular choice among conservatives. The East Coast former governor had signed into law a statewide health care plan that conservatives and libertarians didn’t like. He was once pro-choice, to the dismay of Republicans, and his Herman Munster persona made crying babies cry more loudly. But on Oct. 3, the candidate no one wanted because the candidate we all fell in love with.

Romney’s performance in the first debate was the best performance in decades. His demeanor, his wit, his logic and his ability dominate the night showed a type of leadership we haven’t seen since Bill Clinton, and Republicans haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan.

And I’m not alone in this.

Michael Moore tweeted: “Romney is channeling the look and sound of Reagan. Obama is giving a professor’s lecture. Note to O: Don’t wait til later to throw a punch.”

James Carville said on CNN: “Mitt Romney came in with a chainsaw.”

Chris Matthews’ meltdown on MSNBC was by far the best: “Where was Obama tonight? He should watch — well not just Hardball, Rachel [Maddow], he should watch you, the Rev. Al, Lawrence. There’s a hot debate going on in this country. Here on this network is where we’re having the debate. We have our knives out, we go after the people and the facts. What was he doing tonight? He went in there disarmed.”

Matthews went on an epic rant, screaming over his MSNBC cohorts like a disappointed high school football coach at halftime.

Even the bitterest conservative in America, Pat Buchanan, liked what he saw: “Mitt Romney on Wednesday night turned in the finest debate performance of any candidate of either party in the 52 years since Richard Nixon faced John F. Kennedy, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan’s demolition of Jimmy Carter in 1980. But where Reagan won with style and quips – ‘There you go again’ – and his closing line, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?’ Romney crushed Obama on both substance and style.”

To understand the significance of this is quite amazing. Buchanan was so upset the GOP didn’t back him for president at any point, he broke away from it in 2000 and tried to take votes away from George W. Bush; and when the hanging chads issue came out, he told Florida, “Give my votes to Gore.”

But the icing on the cake was when CNN reported that 67 percent of those who watched the debate agreed Romney won. “No presidential candidate has topped 60 percent in that question since it was first asked in 1984,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. The numbers don’t lie.

What does all of this mean? Nothing until Nov. 7, when we wake up to see if anything has changed.

Of course, do not forget that there is a town hall debate scheduled Oct. 16, and Obama is more in his element with everyday folks, Romney’s kryptonite. My worst nightmare is some hard-on-his-luck dad standing up and asking Romney, “I’ve been unemployed for four years, how will you help me?” and Romney responds with, “I feel your pain as I too have been out of work for over four years.” We are all capable of Biden-sized gaffs.

Until then, conservatives can sleep soundly knowing that round one went to our guy.

Romney didn’t take off the gloves to fight. He went one step further and took off the “Mittens.”