Romney scores points against Obama in first debate

Obama and Romney debate

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney squared off last night in Denver for the first of three debates before next month’s election — this debate primarily focusing on domestic policy. By most accounts I’ve read, Romney did really well, while President Obama struggled (I missed the debate because I was flying back to Atlanta from Washington, DC). The Washington Post has a good overview of the first debate, highlighting the contrast between Obama and Romney:

Romney came into the 90-minute exchange after several difficult weeks but appeared rejuvenated by the opportunity to take his case directly to Obama and the American people. He was well prepared and aggressive as he hammered the president. The contrast with Obama was striking, as the president appeared less energetic even as he rebutted some of Romney’s toughest attacks.

The debate is likely to give Romney what he needed most, which is a fresh look from voters — at least those who are undecided or open to changing their minds — and will change the conversation about the campaign, which for the past two weeks has been tilted in the president’s favor. Romney now faces the challenge of trying to build on his performance and keep the president on the defensive in the days ahead.

Romney offered conservative policies throughout the evening but he often sounded more moderate than he does in campaign appearances. He is likely to face a challenge from Obama and the Democrats in the coming days about the contrast in tone and posture on display during the night.

A post-debate poll from CNN showed that 67% of viewers believed Romney won. And while half of viewers had their opinions of the race unchange by the debate, 35% said it made them more likely to vote for Romney — only 18% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Obama.

The Hill explains that, despite his connecting with Americans, Romney bested Obama by “[speaking] empathetically of the effect of the still-lagging economy on individuals struggling to find work.” The Hill also notes that President Obama didn’t get in some of the central themes of the campaign, such as Romney’s time at Bain Capital and his recent remarks about the “47%” of voters who were never going to give the GOP nominee a look.

Many observers have had criticism for Jim Lehrer, who moderated the debate. He apparently let the candidates speak for too long, well passed established answer and rebuttal times. Chris Matthews had an epic freak out about President Obama out after the debate, asking, “What was he doing?”

Andrew Sullivan, who live-blogged the debate at The Daily Beast, also admitted that Obama lost, explaining,”[t]his was a disaster for the president for the key people he needs to reach, and his effete, wonkish lectures may have jolted a lot of independents into giving Romney a second look.” Even Van Jones, the former communist turned 9/11 Truther turned czar, said his former boss, President Obama, lost the debate.

Before the debate, Romney was looking at being routed by President Obama. However, Romney will likely see a bump in the polls, so whatever comes out next week from swing states, where data really matters, will be worth watching.

Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan will square off a week from today at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where the two will discuss foreign and domestic policy. President Obama and Romney will meet again on Tuesday, October 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, also discussing foreign and domestic policy. Those two debates, given recent events, should be very interesting.

In case you missed it, here is the full video of last night’s debate:

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