U.S. News’s live opinion blog of the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Contributors from the Thomas Jefferson Street opinion blog will be weighing in throughout the debate giving their insights into the exchange. Enjoy—and give us your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom.
Robert Schlesinger 11:18: Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg did a dial group of independent voters. His take: “Mitt Romney made some gains here though it looks somewhat constrained by the available electorate he was reaching out to. … We’re not looking at dramatic things.” When they asked who won it was 42 percent for Romney, 20 percent for Obama, 38 percent for neither. More problematic for the president: Obama went from 31 to 33 percent share of the vote while Romney went from 27 to 44 percent. With dial groups, Greenberg says, the direction is captured but the scale is always exaggerated. Let’s hope so.
Ron Bonjean 11:02: The Romney comeback rocket has just left the launch pad. Just how far it will go will be up to more great debates and a strong VP match.
Boris Epshteyn 10:50: The Obama team's spin team has nothing they can use—almost going to the argument that Romney had more time to prepare. Also going after the moderator—crying about the referee.
Robert Schlesinger 10:45: Romney had a strong performance tonight—he was polished and smooth, as he often is, but without the robotic, smug veneer that he often has. His preparation showed off, and he even managed to get off one of his much ballyhooed zingers (you get your own plane but not your own facts—yawn).
I don't think Obama was as bad as many of the Twitterati (and not just his critics) believe, but he definitely didn't bring his A-game tonight. (One of the members of my personal focus group—the couple I'm watching with—just quipped, "It looked like he needed a cup of coffee.") Obama has an unfortunate habit of giving the idea that he is thinking of what he wants to say as he speaks, which lends itself to a hesitant delivery that doesn't work. And where were Bain Capital or Romney's "47 percent" comments? (Conversely, Romney never brought up the welfare lie.)
Suffice it to say that it's a good thing for the Obama team that Romney was much better than his campaign tonight while the president was not nearly as good as his. Peter Roff 10:41: Now that the debate is over, the real work starts. As Robert and Mary Kate can also probably attest, both campaigns now have their best communications people and surrogates, including elected officials, in a small room off the stage arguing why their guy one. They are emphatically repeating what they thought were their candidates best lines and reminding the reporters who are covering this for television and writing for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and wire services where the opposition got its facts wrong.
The "spin room" is where the debate coverage is really shaped, which is why tomorrow morning's reports may not look like the debate you thought you saw tonight.
Clark Judge 10:40: Assessment of debate: Both were smooth, well briefed. Most fluid presentations in debates (on both sides) in years. Who won? If there is a group sitting on the sidelines, unhappy with the president but wanting reassurance about Romney, they got it tonight. Romney laid out his thinking on the economy better than anytime to date. His campaign needed that.
Mary Kate Cary 10:39: Debate wrap-up. Romney: reliable, smart, safe alternative. Obama: no charm, rusty, annoyed. Chris Christie was right: Tonight's debate changed the entire race.
Peter Roff 10:39: As the post-debate spin starts, the Romney campaign leads off with a statement from GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan:
Americans deserve a clear choice about what kind of future we're going to have, and Governor Romney provided that contrast tonight. Mitt won this debate by effectively articulating his positive vision for a better America and the specific solutions needed to achieve it. The President, meanwhile, offered only more of the same failed ideas that have left those in the middle class—as Joe Biden put it—'buried.' As we continue to sharpen the focus on the big choice in this election, Americans will see that we cannot afford four more years like the last. We need a real recovery, and Mitt Romney can get the job done.