Last night’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney was more substantive than many expected, with considerably more back-and-forth on policy and very few zingers.
Here is a roundup of reactions:
“President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney delved into dense discussions on taxes, health care, entitlement programs and more. Each candidate unleashed a flurry of statistics and complex equations for bringing down the debt… The wonkish policy debate was a stark contrast to the monthslong campaign, filled with broad-brush and harsh attacks by the two candidates on one another.”
“It was the kind of debate in which after the first five or ten minutes, both candidates were talking to the solid partisans and the pundits, because no one else could stand all that talk of Simpson-Bowles and Dodd-Frank and the rest of it.”
“If you had the sound turned off, Romney looked calm and affable through more of the debate than Obama did, and the incumbent president more often looked peeved. Romney’s default expression, whether genuine or forced, was a kind of smile; Obama’s, a kind of scowl. I can understand why Obama would feel exasperated by these claims and arguments. Every president is exasperated by what he considers facile claims about what he knows to be impossibly knotty problems. But he let it show.”
Daniel Gross was baffled by how out of touch with the economy both candidates were:
I’m not particularly concerned with who won the debate, although if I were forced to declare a winner, I’d say Romney did. What I am concerned with was the poor quality of the debate. There was plenty of talk about the working poor and the unemployed, but they were used mostly as props. The crucial issue for the next four years is how to make economic growth work for everyone, how to get people back to work, and how to find and deploy the resources necessary to make our systems function well. I heard a lot more discussion of Dodd-Frank and Simpson-Bowles on Wednesday night than I did on those topics.
“After appearing somewhat thunderstruck for the first 20 minutes of his first presidential debate, understandable when considering Romney had never been on a stage so grand while Obama encounters them daily, the Republican nominee settled into a relentless attack on the Democratic incumbent’s first term and said his results should disqualify him from winning a second.”
Seth Masket wonders how this changes the race:
[T]he pivot to the center that had been conspicuously absent from Romney’s campaign this year finally happened, in the space of 90 minutes. Now, in the short run, this presents an advantage — Romney’s new stances were obviously much more popular than his old ones, and the president had difficulty critiquing views that were so similar to his own. But I’m wondering about the costs of this pivot: a) Does he alienate some conservative activists, who have long worried about his ideological bona fides? b) Does this reinforce his image as a flip-flopper? Possible answers: a) Conservative activists will probably suck it up and be grateful for a nominee who could stick it to the president in a debate. b) There was plenty of flip-flopper material there for Obama to exploit, but he largely didn’t, although I’m sure his surrogates will be all over that for the remainder of the week.
New York Daily News front page sky box: “Mitt’s a hit! Rocks Obama in 1st debate.”
New York Post: “Direct Mitt! Romney batters Bam in first debate.” That’s over a photo of Romney looking at Obama while the president looks down and smirks.
“[D]uring their 90-minute encounter, the first of three presidential debates, the Democratic president sometimes seemed annoyed and defensive while his Republican challenger was energetic, focused and relentlessly on message.”
“This debate is an easy one to call: Romney won in a landslide, while Obama appeared flatfooted, tired, and somewhat detached.”
Glenn Reynolds: “Romney was channeling Reagan. Obama was channeling Biden.”
“Mitt Romney finally shook the etch-a-sketch tonight and moved to the center… Romney swore to defend single-payer health care for everyone born in 1957 or earlier, touted the universal health care initiative he signed in Massachusetts, promised not to cut federal education spending, defended the role of regulation in building an effective market economy, defended the current structure of Social Security, and charged Obama with failure to crack down adequately on big banks.”