Romney Won the Debate Hands Down

The verdict is in—from David Brooks on PBS to Charles Krauthammer on Fox News to James Carville on CNN to Chris Matthews on MSNBC:  Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate decisively.

The Republican presidential candidate was sharp, prepared and specific—at least more specific than he has been so far in the campaign. He responded well to the president’s attacks and even upped the ante on issues from jobs to deficits to health care to Medicare. He was passionate and in command of the facts. 

A focus group of Colorado undecided voters led by Republican pollster Frank Luntz on Fox News—half of whom voted for President Obama in 2008– said Romney was decisive and showed leadership. On the other hand, they called the president’s performance “flat,” “weak,” and “not passionate.”

It was quite amazing to me, who has heard Romney speak in person several times and found him wooden, even robotic, to see him as the more passionate, caring candidate and President Obama as so listless.

“I think he was off his game tonight,” said Carville.  “President Obama came in wanting to have a conversation…Romney came in with a chainsaw.”

The president did not deliver the knockout punch on Romney’s tax plan, which is full of holes. He did not bring up the video comments Romney made about the 47% of the population who consider themselves “victims.” He seemed to be pulling his punches throughout.

One candidate wanted to be there; one didn’t, said Carville. Romney prepared for months for this debate. The president appeared to be winging it; he crammed for a couple of days and took a break to visit the Hoover Dam.


Mitt Romney at the first presidential debate in Denver. Source:


Also, Romney had been through more than 20 debates in the primary season; the president did that, too, but four years ago. Also, he’s been in the White House cocoon for four years. It showed. He was rusty and remote.

A post-debate poll of registered voters conducted by CNN found 67% thought Romney won the debate; only 25% picked the president. And by 58%-37% they said Romney had showed better leadership qualities. (So did a CNN focus group of independent voters in Colorado.)

Can this be a game changer? I don’t know—the president built up a good lead through the summer and his campaign has eviscerated Romney over the past month. And debates historically have not transformed presidential elections. Witness John Kerry, who beat President George W. Bush handily in their debates in 2004, but went on to lose.

But remember, the economy was clearly recovering by the time of the presidential election of 2004 and unemployment was a lot lower. That’s why this election is so much more volatile.

Mitt Romney took a big step to turn around his campaign Wednesday night. For the president this should be a major wake-up call. He needs to decide whether he really wants a second term—and then he’s going to have to fight for it.


19 Responses to Romney Won the Debate Hands Down

  1. jono October 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    This is supposed to be independent??? Compared to who, the Daily Kos?

  2. not fooled October 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    fact check romney’s answers. he won nothing. he bounces back and forth more than a hundred people in a ping pong match.that’s who we need as president in these troubled times? his figures don’t add up and he’d be another scott walker of wisconsin. he’d be the top 1% ball boy and carry out the tea partys agenda. he”s severly conservative-remember?

  3. Teri-on-the-sandbar October 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Given the lies and exaggerations he uttered, bro', one can see why he was declared the victor. A bit of fact checking changes the perception, however.

  4. michaelpuglisi October 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    RE: "Romney’s tax plan, which is full of holes."

    Good article, but I would have liked some facts to back up this opinion. It's one thing to say that Romney hasn't provided enough details to fully evaluate the validity of the plan, it's another to state definitively that it is full of holes.

    Not trying to be too critical, just pointing out some information that I would have liked as a reader.

  5. scott October 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I am convinced after seeing last night that Obama is simply not that good. I cant recall when Clinton debated Obama how it went. But Obama was simply a parrot reciting the same thing over and over and a board room CEO just destroyed him.

    BTW I am not a repub, I am a Dem. One needs a teleprompter and the other is simply that good (Romney)

  6. scott October 4, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I am convinced after seeing last night that Obama is simply not that good. I cant recall when Clinton debated Obama how it went. But Obama was simply a parrot reciting the same thing over and over and a board room CEO just destroyed him.

  7. Dave Lugin October 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Relax Howard. As a independent I think you wrote a fair and non bias piece. With that said I was embarrassed for the President. That had to be one of the most lopsided debates I have ever witnessed. No President democrat or republican should be that unprepared.

  8. Mike D October 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Well, it's a sad commentary that someone can "win" a debate while lying his butt off, but that's where we're at I guess.

  9. Christine October 4, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    Oh I guess he "won" because he had 'energy'… huh?? okay??
    Number's were all off but he HAD energy!(?)
    Give me a break, this guy is going to do what he does best: acquire companies (& NO bigger company than the US Government) — he's going to go in & run it to the ground, makie his money (because he needs it so badly) & then leave us high & dry…. good luck the America we know (hopefully – it won't be the America we "knew".
    It's so sad that no ONE seems to be concerned (of this well documented child bully) that he will NOT reveal his secrets! Hey but he did have Energy!!

  10. Arrow October 4, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Barry O got that butt kicked.

  11. Arrow October 4, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    The debate was a joke and Obama was the butt of the joke.

  12. Jim Thomas October 5, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    I'm an Obama supporter but there was no doubt Romney won the debate. He was sharper and Obama failed miserably to challenge his ridiculous tax plan, which seems to be changing every day he campaigns. Obama clearly thought that just saying Romney had a $5 trillion tax cut would blow away him and the audience. When Romney disputed that number, Obama failed miserably to explain why he was right and Romney was full of it.


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