1. Romney won. Seems like the most obvious take away imaginable, right? Consider this: presidential debates are usually “draws” with pundits and talking heads suggesting, at best, that one candidate might have had scored a slight edge over the other. This was not the case in the Denver debate. Romney won the first half hour, then the second and finished strong in the third. I don’t recall a debate where the winner was so obvious to so many across the political spectrum.

2. Romney knows how to do his homework. Romney has always possessed a good sense of statistics, and he displayed an ability to dive into the details during the GOP primary. But in Denver he took these skills to a new level. He seemed to have an endless array of studies and hard numbers at his lightening-fast disposal. Clearly the months of homework paid off for 90 minutes.

Obama did well enough with his own numbers and studies to get by. But he seemed, at times, surprised by Romney’s grasp of so many issues and so many potential talking points. Too many of Obama’s answers, even the good ones, began with “um, um, um.”

3. Obama loathes Romney. That’s hardly breaking news; the media has reported often that the president simply doesn’t like Romney and hasn’t worked to hide it. In 2008 Obama seemed more than just courteous with McCain, he was respectful and appeared to have genuine admiration for McCain’s career in public service, despite the obvious disagreements on policy. But in Romney’s case, he displays a no-respect attitude and no admiration for anything Romney has accomplished in his private sector or public service life.

Even deeper than that, it seems that Barack simply doesn’t like Mitt the man. But Mitt doesn’t display the same disdain for Barack. In Denver, the governor engaged the president many times face-to-face, making direct eye-contact as often as his opponent would allow. In return, the president rarely looked up, except when he felt he had no other choice. You could sense the president would’ve been perfectly content to debate in separate rooms and chatting simply with the moderator and only occasionally glancing into the camera.

4. The president’s skills as a debater have been vastly overrated. So much has been made of the president’s sharp tongue and soaring, inspirational oratorical skills. But many have assumed that the ability to deliver a compelling State of the Union address or convention speech would translate into these debates. Quite simply, the skills are completely different.

For his part, Romney delivers a rather mediocre staged speech. With the exception of his speech on religion delivered in 2008, which was very well-received, when has the governor delivered a single speech that anyone will remember? But in this format of punching and counter-punching, Romney is among the best debaters we’ve seen in a long time. Lest we forget that save a few awkward moments – $10,000 bet anyone? – Romney dominated most of the GOP primary debates.

5. Numbers 1-4 may not matter. Clearly a good night for Romney means a series of good news cycles. And you know you did well when even the president’s surrogates are calling it a bad night for their boss. But will it move enough votes in the governor’s favor? Debates are, in the end, about changing minds.

Approximately 130,000,000 people voted in 2008. It’s extremely optimistic, but let’s assume the exact same number vote in 2012. The president sits roughly on a 3% national lead. In order to win the election and turn the tide in the battleground states, the governor doesn’t need to change of a few neighbors and those in the a Frank Luntz focus group, he needs to change almost 4 million minds of the swing and independent voters who will ultimately decide the election.

If, as predicted, the election comes down to a few key battleground states, the the most important takeaway from Denver is whether or not that Romney began to change the minds of enough voters in places like Ohio, Virginia and Florida to catapult him to victory.

Last night was a good start, but you’re Mitt Romney, you need a lot more where that came from.


  • German Observer

    Just a view comments:

    First: in the terms of a debate-logic yesterday Romney won, Obama lost. As simple as that, I don’t want to diminish this.

    Rmney clearly did his homework. But I think his homework in the first place was his personal appearence, rather than quoting some studies. Jason, I never understand why and how excited people get, eben in the media, if a candidate knows some stuff, and if its only how to quote studies. This is what i expect from a president and a president wannabe. Also, this is easy work as every parrot may memorize some stuff that the campaign managers worked out. Romneys really task was to come of as a man at ease, as a fluffy, likable, but dominant guy. And he did. Cudos for that.

    I don’t know, what led the president to that bad performance, but I suspect taht his strategy was to have the draw which is sufficient fopr the incument as far as the conventional wisdom gies and to look presidential. That alone might have worked against a Romney we got to know over the past 18 months, but it was far from beeing enough against the Romney, who showed up yesterday.

    What makes one wonder is, why obama wasn’t able to change the strategy when he faced a situation unexpected. What he essentially did is, playing defensive and letting Romney hit every ball. The question remains why he didn’t counter with more urgency. He missed quote a couple f opportunities, even the Big Bird – thing. On the other han. he wasn’t all that bad. He had his punches, he had his points, but overall looked much too defensive and uninterested.

    Jason, I agree, Obama is a much better orator, than he is a debater. But we knew that all along. His debate performances in 2008 were okay, not more. Hehardly won a debate in the primaries and he only won against McCain in the general as McCain was weak and Obamas job the was only to hold his ground (with memorized phrases etc.).

    I only half agree Jason, that the value of Romneys success yesterday is in doubt because he has to switch so many people. There is two more points. First is: how important are debates alltogether? We all know, they may be decisive if one really has a Dukakis-Ford-Nixon-moment. But Obama hardly had a bad quote which might be fodder for some Youtube-videos. But on the other hand: measured by the polls Kerry won against Bush in all three debates, the first one quite impressive, but lost the elections. So, we don’t really know, what its worth. Secondly and more important: this was only the opening. Now there will be a changed dynamic. And I’m pretty sure next time Obama will be willed to really take part in the debate. This could be a nice narrative for all of us political junkies.

    • Anonymous

      I would say the biggest win for Romney last night was that Mitt was able to define himself instead of Obama and MSM trying to show him as someone he is not.

      Romney won some points for me last night. (Someone see to Brian, I think he fainted)

      • German Observer

        Defining Romney? Yes, he surely did. But not in a new way, did he?

        With vigour he jumped to the center, thewhich is the place where he used to be before he had to win the nomination. Because then, to win the nomination he jumped vigourously to the right, even to more extreme positions than Santorum – and you called him a Flip Flopper for that, a guy who would tell you anything to be elected and feared his Etc a Sketch. Now, that he has got the nomination and struggled with his right-wing-positions he made that Etch a Sketch – thing, tells us, what most if us want to hear, FlipFlops – and hey, I don’t hear your embarressement.

        Listen people, on Wednesday happened what most of you feared all along. And you celebrate this.

  • Anonymous

    I was just over at Huff Po. Besides regularly getting my comments yanked or denied, I noticed that the tone of all the lib posters was one of grief, sadness, anger, even a few comments of rage (somehow all of their comments slipped by the moderators). The one common thread in all of their comments – Romney must have lied. He’s not telling the truth. It’s amazing that in their world, there’s no consideration that any alternative to their talking points can even be considered. If he doesn’t say the same things they agree with, Romney must be lying. It’s like a morgue after a large-scale natural disaster.

    • Anonymous

      I have attempted to get the PD brass to yank and deny all of your comments as well, RS. :)

  • Alaina

    I am eagerly awaiting post-debate polls…