This short-answer format has a lot of limitations. On the plus side, it’s generated a veritable tsunami of punchy, anti-Obama sound-bites unlike anything viewers of MSM outlets are used to. From the lead-in, in which David Gergen slapped down Obama’s blame-Bush defense, right through the debate, this has been one long dig at Obama–at an economic moment when the barbs all tend to land. So far, at least, instead of giving the impression of a bunch of midgets who can’t take on the president, this debate has tended to diminish Obama. It’s tough for any one candidate to take the lead in this format, but the total effect of the debate has been to strengthen whoever ends up with the prize.
That said, I think Romney has come across well. He knows how to handle himself, the format makes it tough to go after rivals, and the candidates clearly prefer to hammer Obama rather than each other. Is that good strategy? Maybe staying positive is best in the short term, but eventually the leader will have to be taken down a peg.
Still, it isn’t over yet.