Jamieson agreed. "Romney had trouble getting his footing back for a while."
Even worse for him, though, Jamieson said, will be the inevitable fallout from the exchange being played again and again on TV.
"There's the debate, and then there's the battle of control for the news agenda afterwards," she said. "This is the sound bite likely to be played, and every time it is, it will disadvantage Romney."
THE POLITICS OF FASHION
Some would say the candidates switched roles in terms of their debate performance; what's objectively true is that they switched tie colors, with Obama wearing red this time and Romney wearing blue. Is red warmer? Is blue cooler? Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, meanwhile, ignored both of those colors and turned heads by wearing the same shade of hot pink (likely a nod to October being breast cancer awareness month).
THE COMEDY QUOTIENT (OR IS 'BINDER' THE NEW BIG BIRD?)
There were a few amusing exchanges in the earlier debates, but the extremely tense nature of this one seemed to preclude that possibility. There wasn't really a "Big Bird" or a "malarkey" moment, and even Joe Biden would have found little to chuckle about.
But Big Bird may have ceded way in our pop-culture consciousness to a brand new expression: "Binders full of women."
It came when Romney was answering a question about fair pay for women. While Obama mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which he signed into law, Romney spoke of his efforts to hire women into his cabinet when he was Massachusetts governor. He said he asked women's groups to help and, he said, "They brought us whole binders full of women."
Within moments, of course, social media pounced with multiple Twitter hashtags and a meme that featured a widely circulated image of women in a loose-leaf binder.
As for Obama, his best comedy moment may have come, fittingly for the night, in the form of a dig.
Romney asked him if he had looked at his pension lately. Obama parried: "I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours, so it doesn't take as long."
The crowd broke the rules and laughed. Score one for the president. And look for a rematch on pensions, binders and maybe even a return of Big Bird when the two meet again next Monday. If the feisty, aggressive versions of both candidates turn up again, it'll be fun to watch.
Follow AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP
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