Presidential Debate Reactions

Among the thousands of recaps, here area few I thought noteworthy:

Stephen Hayes, The Weekly Standard:

In a thoroughly dominating performance, Romney bested Barack Obama in both tone and substance. Romney was plainly well prepared and made his points with a policy fluency that eluded Obama for much of the night. The president’s answers were often too long and rambling. Obama often found himself at the end of a verbal cul-de-sac, seemingly unaware of how he’d ended up there.

Over the course of the 90-minute debate, a steady, confident Romney drove a sharp contrast with Obama that has sometimes been lost in his campaign’s effort to appeal to independents and former Obama voters in swing states. Romney’s tone was pitch perfect – respectful but not deferential, aggressive but not overzealous, detailed but not too wonky. He spoke with the kind of urgency about the direction of the country that reflects the anxiety so many Americans have expressed. Romney was, without question, the more passionate of the two candidates on stage, and his feelings did not seem contrived.

Jim Geraghty, National Review

Obama Fans Suddenly See the Same Guy We’ve Seen All Along

Two other points that become clearer the morning after: Over four to eight years, President Obama grew quite dependent upon audience reaction to feed his energy during appearances like this. The audience followed Jim Lehrer’s instructions and there was no applause other than the introduction, little or no laughter. Without it, his energy flagged, and his mood seemed to darken; his irritation with Romney and occasionally Lehrer (“I had five seconds left, before you interrupted me”) couldn’t be concealed.

Secondly, it didn’t seem like Obama was ready to have his record challenged this way; he apparently thinks that he’s done as good a job as anyone could expect, and seems to think that most Americans feel the same way. We defended his record with a lot of the familiar buzzwords — “investments” “balanced approach” “class sizes” — and Romney swatted most of them away, like when he pointed out that the $90 billion spent on “green jobs” could have been used to hire 2 million more teachers.

At one point, Obama said, “It means that the teacher that I met in Las Vegas, a wonderful young lady, who describes to me — she’s got 42 kids in her class. The first two weeks she’s got them, some of them sitting on the floor until finally they get reassigned. They’re using text books that are 10 years old.” He seemed to forget he was the incumbent, and that a lot of Americans heard that and wondered, “Why are you telling us how bad things are in our schools, sir? Why haven’t you done something about that, Mr. President?”

Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

The most important thing about these debates is that they give voters an idea of which candidate can take command for an office one of whose titles is commander-in-chief. Romney, in his interactions with Lehrer and with Obama, established that he is a man who can take command. Obama, through the whole debate, seemed like a man who cannot. Romney took command tonight and Obama looked irritable and weak. Americans don’t usually want irritatble and weak leaders as their commanders-in-chief.

Yuval Levin, National Review

With just a few exceptions in tonight’s debate, Obama’s strategy seemed to be to treat this as an open-seat election rather than to behave like the man who is the president today and has been for four years. He talked about how people are suffering, how teachers are getting fired, how the middle class is being squeezed — all of which begs the reply: Why hasn’t the president done something about it? Romney offered that reply once or twice. And Obama talked about his own agenda as a set of proposals — essentially the same proposals he made in 2008. At one point he even said his deficit-reduction plan was on a website somewhere for everyone to see. Well anyone can put things on a website, but the president can get legislation passed — or at least a president should be able to. This president hasn’t managed to enact popular legislation, and he has pushed through some very unpopular legislation. His closing statement corrected this tendency a bit, and offered a defense of his record (or rather, a description of his record as he wants it understood, which was really his job tonight), but until that point he was basically running as he did in 2008 and trying to avoid defending himself. I think it just didn’t work.

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