Obama's performance was so bad, in fact, that liberal blogger Andrew Sullivan said he was "sad, confusing and lame." Sullivan goes on to call Obama's performance a disaster and said it was "beyond depressing."
Conservatives are thrilled to see an executive mind like Romney's take command of the debate and put Obama in his place. We've all been curious as to when, if ever, Romney would take the gloves off and show what he's made of. This debate showed us that Romney is part of the big kid's club and Obama just doesn't have what it takes."
Frank Luntz Focus Group: even the ones who voted for Obama last time thought Romney was the clear winner because they heard substantial solutions. Nearly everyone said they came to the group undecided but now know who they will vote for. And most of them were for Romney. One pertinent comment: "Obama's numbers don't add up."
From the Washington Post:
Most everyone agrees: Mitt Romney won the first debate of the 2012 presidential election on Wednesday.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll released after the debate showed 67 percent of viewers thought Romney won, while just 25 percent said the same of President Obama.
And a CBS poll showed 46 percent of undecided voters said Romney won, compared to 22 percent who said Obama won.
While Romney’s workman-like performance may have lacked one single big moment, there were a lot of reasons he came out ahead.
Below, we expound upon six of them:
1. He controlled the format: For better or worse, moderator Jim Lehrer largely let the candidates sort out the debate themselves, essentially broaching broad topics and letting the candidates duke it out on their own terms — with almost-endless rebuttals. This format favored Romney. Romney’s campaign went into the debate with an attack mindset (as most candidates who are behind do), and by allowing all those rebuttals, Lehrer gave Romney a chance to execute. He did. Obama wasn’t as focused on attacking, which works less well when there is so much back-and-forth.
2. Obama seemed frazzled: He didn’t have an Al-Gore-sighs moment, but Obama was clearly not having a good time on stage. His head was down when Romney was talking, his responses were halting at times, he often nodded (as if showing approval) or smirked when Romney was talking, and he even conceded some points to Romney on issues like deficit reduction and not being a “perfect” president. None of these were by themselves huge moments (as Gore’s sigh was), but the totality suggested a candidate who wasn’t terribly comfortable. And he wasn’t.
3. The politics of preemption: Romney knew going into the debate that he was going to be attacked for raising taxes on the middle class (according to an oft-cited study) and favoring the wealthy, so what he did was preemptively assure that he would not raise taxes on the middle class, repeating that over and over again and suggesting that it’s Obama who would raise taxes on the middle class. He also made a point to emphasize the poor (think: “I’m not concerned about the very poor“). By setting the terms of the tax cut debate, Romney offset the gains that Obama might have been able to make on a class issue that polls suggest the president is winning.
4. Obama didn’t get his big talking points in: If you would have told us before the debate that Obama would mention the auto bailout and Osama bin Laden only once and wouldn’t mention Bain Capital or Romney’s “47 percent” comments at all, we would have told you you were crazy. Yet that’s exactly what happened. Obama seemed predisposed with not engaging too much with Romney, but the debate was all about engaging with one another, and Obama didn’t even register the biggest hits on Romney.
5. The expectations were low: There’s a reason the campaigns spend so much time lowering expectations for the debate; expectations matter. And polls showed that, going into the debate, the American public, by a large margin, expected Obama to win. With the bar relatively low for Romney, it was that much easier to clear. That’s not to say Romney didn’t have a good debate. He did. But candidates will always be graded on a curve, and Romney beat the curve.
6. Romney avoided a stumble: Romney’s campaign has been colored by the occasional gaffe which shows the candidate to be out of touch or just plain awkward. There were a couple iffy moments on that count (Big Bird, anyone?), but the GOP nominee’s performance was largely gaffe-free. Without a “47 percent” or “I’m not concerned about the very poor” moment, Romney allowed for the post-debate analysis to focus on other things, which is what he needs.
- Romney's emphasis on coal could be bad news for Democrat Tim Kaine in the Virginia Senate race, Eliot Spitzer said after the debate on Current TV. "Don't forget there are a lot of down-ballot implications here. If the presidential race comes close in Virginia because of this, because of what Mitt Romney said about coal, then suddenly the Kaine ... race comes up for grabs again," Spitzer said.
- Bracewell Giuliani energy specialist Frank Maisano wrote to ME: "Donald Trump 1, Big Bird 1; Climate Change 0. ... Maybe we need to send the next moderator more spam to see if they'll mention the topic..." Romney scored, Maisano added, with his line saying $90 billion in green energy investments could have paid for 2 million teachers. "That was much more effective than any other attacks on green energy."
- American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard: "Unfortunately, after suggesting that he's in favor of increased oil and natural gas production, the president called for increased taxes on the industry he wants to help drive our economy and create jobs. Punishing energy companies by raising taxes is not sound energy policy and could lead to less energy, less government revenue, and fewer jobs."
- National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons: "Governor Romney was absolutely right when he called for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL represented one of the single strongest opportunities for job creation in the past couple of years, and the discussion of energy policy returned the debate right back to where the focus needed to be on - jobs." http://bit.ly/QZfxJT
TWEETS OF THE NIGHT
@ChuckGrassley: "Hooray Romney brings up Solyndra where president wasted half billion"
Public Radio International correspondent @toddzwillich: "Dear Coal: Do u like me 2? [ ] yes [ ] no [ ] maybe"
@boonepickens: "Not buying the $4 billion in tax cuts claim for the oil industry by President Obama. He needs to explain. Obama#debates #pickensplan"
Energy in Depth spokesman @saeverley: "ExxonMobil, Mr. President? They pay $12 million in taxes every hour, three times their profits. Care to try again?"
And the best of all, Chrissy Matthews from PMSNBC has something dribbling down his leg: