If President Obama had done this well in the first debate, most would have already written off Mitt Romney. Obama won the debate decisively.
The president had a simple formula: Defend and explain his record while insisting that Romney wasn’t being truthful. He kept Romney on the defensive and came prepared with counter-punches to nearly every topic. It was devastatingly effective.
The memorandum of understanding setting the rules for the debate — and the town hall format itself — went out the window pretty quickly. The debate turned confrontational within the first 20 minutes which probably pleased partisans. Both sides saw fire in their candidate. But it’s more likely that undecided voters didn’t like the confrontation at all.
In particular, Romney doesn’t do testy well. He made a big mistake trying to roll over the moderator. He got away with it in the first debate but he looked mean tonight. His obsession with the rules also came off as petty.
Romney was most effective when pointing out what Obama promised and what actually happened over the last four years. He scored many points But he lost most of them by not knowing his facts on what President Obama said the morning after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Obama acted like a president in the exchange while Romney was much less. It was Romney’s Gerald Ford moment.
Candy Crowley was an excellent moderator. She kept what could have been an unruly event on topic and very informative.