And the winner is...
Depends on who you ask.
Last week, a friend of mine who is a Republican (yes, I have Republican friends) said to me, "Mitt Romney's going to win the debate." And I told her that she would say that no matter what, she agreed. Then she said to me, "Well, you will say Obama won no matter what." And I told her she was wrong. And she was.
If I had to rate the debate last night, honestly I would have to say it was a tie.
Mitt Romney's goal in this first debate, which normally favors the challenger to the incumbent, was a) to appear presidential—he did, b) to defend his position—he did, and c) to not seem intimidated, being strong without being insulting—he did
Now President Obama had some goals as well: a) to outline the differences between he and Romney's position on the issues—he did, b) to defend his record—he did, and c) to poke holes in some of his opponents proposals—he did.
Now there were moments that didn't seem to sit well with the American people: for some (myself included), when Romney just plowed over the moderator insisting he would finish, showing us a glimpse of that elitist side of Romney—the rules don't apply to me type of guy. And there was the president's parting shot at Romney—pointing out that there are a lot of ideas with no specific plan. For some, it was a shot; for some it was a necessary point to be made.
Now we'll wait to see who, if any of these candidates, enjoys a brief bump from these debates. But my prediction is we might see Romney get that "sugar high" as his campaign called the president's bump after the Democratic National Convention.
There was nothing spectacular tonight, no huge one liners to be remembered and quite frankly, it was a bit lackluster. Many people on Twitter questioned the use of Dodd/Frank , etc. types of references and the amount of stats included; it was as if you could hear a huge yawn in the viral world.
The two candidates were cordial, even respectful of each other. There are some that expected both to be more aggressive, and for some, not aggressive enough.
Before the debate, there were many on the left feeling that this election was all but over. I'm a pessimist at heart and warned my fellow Dems of that fat lady who hasn't sung yet. The president might be leading in most of the swing states. But as many times before, it will all come down to Florida, where the president has a very slim lead. And of course, Mitt Romney was hoping to bridge that gap tonight.
Will he? The polls that come out in the next few days will tell all.
But if the president were to ask my advice, I would say, Mr. President, don't be so confident; remind America of why we voted for you. For although I knew Mitt Romney was intelligent and would be a great debater, I did expect him to stumble tonight, and he didn't. There are two more debates to go and if the president doesn't hit a homerun, then that lead the president has both nationally and among swing voters could narrow—just as the fat lady hits the stage, stands before the microphone, and begins to sing her song.