David Axelrod, a top Obama campaign official, said he was unsurprised by Romney's strong approach.
"What you saw tonight is what you saw during the primaries, which is that Governor Romney is a very eager and willing candidate on the attack," he said. "That's why his closing statement was nothing but unalloyed carpet bombing with no real vision for the future, and ultimately, I don't think that's how you get elected."
And while "instant" polls showed the vast majority of voters felt Romney was the debate victor, history has shown debate performances aren't particularly effective at altering race trajectories unless a severe gaffe is committed. That didn't happen Wednesday; the most talked about line was when Romney made the point that he loves Big Bird but doesn't think the federal government should be subsidizing public television.
But Romney, who has been trailing Obama slightly in national and swing-state polling, needed to prove he was still in the hunt and he was able to accomplish that goal with aplomb.
There will be two more presidential debates and one vice presidential debate before Election Day.