Photo: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama
Repbulican presidential candidate Mitt Romney clearly got the upper hand over President Barack Obama, who appeared nervous and unable to clearly communicate his ideas, in their first televised debate, polls and media reports said.
Even commentators considered friendly to the Democratic incumbent, such as those on MSNBC, acknowledged that Obama lost and said they had expected a better performance from the president in Wednesday night’s debate at the University of Denver.
The press repeatedly used words like “strong” and “aggressive” to describe Romney and “stiff” and defensive to describe the president, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 6.
Some 67 percent of viewers on CNN said Romney won the debate, while 25 percent gave the upper hand to Obama.
A CNN poll of 430 adults found that 61 percent of viewers considered the president’s performance worse than expected.
A CBS poll of 523 likely voters found that 46 percent considered Romney the winer of the debate, while only 22 percent said Obama won.
Fox News said that while the debate lacked “knockout blows,” the candidates did throw some elbows.
The New York Times noted the many statistics cited by the candidates, who made the country’s economic problems the focus of the debate, weighing in on unemployment, the deficit, taxes and healthcare spending.
The Wall Street Journal pointed out the differences between the candidates over the role of the federal government, with both Romney and Obama portraying themselves as defenders of the middle class.
Democrats had said before the face-to-face showdown that Obama was rusty from not having debated in four years, while Romney was coming off a grueling Republican primary season that featured more than a dozen debates.
What is clear is that the president had his head bowed and appeared nervous at the start of the debate, preventing him from clearly communicating his plans for a second term.
Political commentators wondered why Obama did not go after Romney by mentioning recent controversial statements by the former Massachusetts governor, such as his quip to donors that “47 percent” of Americans would never vote for him because they were dependent on the government.
Obama also avoided referring to Romney’s time as head of private equity firm Bain Capital, an issue that the president’s campaign has been pounding away at during appearances and on television ads.
The president, moreover, failed to mention the former governor’s opposition to the 2009 auto industry bailout.
It is still too early to tell whether Romney’s debate victory will translate into better poll numbers, which have turned in Obama’s favor in recent weeks.
The president has two more debates - on Oct. 16 in New York and Oct. 22 in Florida - to put his loss in Denver behind him.