More analysis and reaction to last night’s presidential debate

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The instant polls all found Obama won last night’s presidential debate: CBS News had Obama beating Romney 37% to 30%, CNN found Obama won 46% to 39%, and a Lake Research poll in the battleground states found Obama up 53% to 38%.

Mike Allen: “Last night was Governor Romney’s last, best chance, because the next debate is foreign policy, where President Obama is strong. But at the town-hall debate, Romney discovered one of the basic precepts of military science: You only get one sneak attack! We now have a tight, three-week race that either man could win, depending on events and the subtle electoral ecology of Ohio and Virginia. But at least in obvious rewards, Obama got a ton more out of last night than Romney did.”

AP says the gloves came off

“One thing was clear: It was a distinctly different Obama than the one who gave a largely listless performance in the first debate.”

“There’s a fine line between aggressive and rude, and it was approached at times. ‘You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking,’ Romney said crisply when Obama was in mid-sentence at one point, evoking some gasps in the audience.” And the Libya “exchange about it appeared to hurt Romney going forward.”

Ross Douthat was unimpressed with Romney’s performance, calling it a “narrow victory” for Obama:

“The narrow win he gained in the second presidential debate also owed something to Romney’s performance, which, though highly effective in stretches, also showcased more of his flaws, both as a debater and as a candidate.” More: “One is his tendency to argue pointlessly with the moderator and his opponents over the rules of order. The other is his habit of pressing his advantage too far, seeking a kind of alpha-male moment that can seem bullying instead of strong. … On substance, meanwhile, the studied vagueness of Romney’s domestic policy platform created more problems for him than it did in Denver.”

Harry Enten doesn’t much, if any, movement from this debate.

“If it does occur, it will be favorable towards President Obama. He’ll take that, in this tight race, as every little bit counts. But remember that predictions about post-debate movements are not perfect and that any movements or lack thereof could be erased by next week‘s debate.”

Ron Fournier:

“Like two roughnecks squared off on a playground, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney invaded each other’s personal space, raised their voices, and fought. … Who won? The answer may be Obama, because his goal following a catastrophically sluggish first debate was so clear: Show some life. And, indeed, the president aggressively criticized Romney, labeling him a hypocrite and a liar who favors the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor. But Romney got his licks in, too, wrapping a miserable economy around the incumbent’s neck.”

Jonah Goldberg thinks Obama won on points:

“I think Romney whiffed on the Libya question. For me, both of them came across as less likable by the end because of the bickering and badgering. Regardless, even if the polls show Obama won by a small margin — which I expect they will —  and that verdict holds, tonight’s debate struck me as a more traditional presidential debate, with ammo for both sides to claim their guy won. And I don’t know that that’s good enough for Obama.” He also felt the questioning helped Obama.”

Josh Green:

“I thought Mitt Romney’s second debate was nearly as bad as Barack Obama’s first debate. Two weeks ago, Obama seemed to have no awareness of what he was doing wrong, and he spent the evening staring at the lectern and searching for something to say. Romney seemed to suffer from a similar malady Tuesday night, imagining himself as winningly assertive while coming across as peevish, over-aggressive, and fussily obsessing over the rules like Tracy Flick in Election. In the town hall setting, Romney’s constant interruptions of the moderator, Candy Crowley, and the president, seemed rude in a way they did not when the two candidates stood together onstage. … He didn’t offer much that would persuade someone not yet comfortable with his candidacy, and he probably fostered doubts in a number of people who had warmed to him after the last debate.”

Rich Lowry says President Obama was much better than last time:

“Romney, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as good two weeks ago. I think he’s at his weakest as a performer when he gets a little too worked up and shows too much concern with the rules. He did both tonight. … I understand his instinct to try to nail the president with killer questions, but it sometimes came off as badgering and contributed to his tripping up on Libya. All that said, it was a solid performance overall and occasionally excellent.”

Of course, Dick Morris thinks Romney won:

“This debate goes to Romney. It seals his momentum and will lead to a big win.”

Greg Sargent predicts the race will still be the dead heat tomorrow that it was yesterday:

“…but Obama made big strides towards turning things around tonight.”

Andrew Sullivan is relieved:

“To my mind, Obama dominated Romney tonight in every single way: in substance, manner, style, and personal appeal. He came back like a lethal, but restrained predator.”

The Wall Street Journal:

“President Barack Obama roared. And Mitt Romney roared back. The two men seeking the White House engaged in what was surely the most lively and least decorous debate ever seen in an American presidential campaign Tuesday night.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.