Well, it looks like Romney took my advice (no not literally). In boxing terms, Romney went for a clinch. While Obama constantly tried to push Romney off to start a real fight and heighten the contrast. In other words, Obama behaved like a challenger in trouble and Romney acted liked a candidate with something to lose. That tells you something about the poll numbers both of these guys are looking at.
And while I obviously think Romney followed the right strategy, I have to say I wish he’d broken out of the clinch a couple times to land a some easy blows. It was often painful to watch Romney blur the difference between them. Still, I think he was smart not to take the bait.
Meanwhile, Obama looked a bit desperate at times, particularly when he was staring at Romney as if to force the former governor into spontaneous human combustion.
Ultimately, I think this debate served Romney well, even if the flash polls say Obama won narrowly on points (the polls said the same after the second debate and Romney’s numbers continued to improve). If you went into this debate worried that Romney isn’t a safe presidential pick, you came out reassured. Also, the long tail of this debate will play well to Romney’s advantage in that he had a few more memorable lines and was better on the economy. Obama’s one really memorable line — about the navy and bayonets — will not help him in swing states or with constituencies not already in his column.