I think 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.
That said, I don’t know that it focus-groups that way (if I can turn that into a verb). There was a lot that Mitt Romney said tonight that resonates with voters on exactly the issues that they are most likely to vote on. Many of Obama’s answers seem to resonate with people in the MSNBC green room. Moreover, I don’t know that the post-debate fact-checks and discussion will play to Obama’s advantage. The scrum over Obama’s Libya response will keep the topic alive for a week. Romney’s answer on oil and gas was right and Obama’s claim Romney was lying was in fact a lie. Etc.
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. The first debate changed peoples’ impression of Romney. There was little in tonight’s debate that seems likely to erase that.
If I seem all over the place, it’s because I am. I found this debate deeply frustrating and unedifying. I thought the questions, prescreened by Candy Crowley, were for the most part indistinguishable from questions the Obama campaign might as well have drafted for her. Nearly every one was asked from a fundamentally liberal premise. Why on earth this debate was handed to undecided voters in a state where Obama is leading by nearly 30 points is beyond me. These weren’t undecided voters; they were at best dyspeptic Democrats.