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.

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