Well, tonight was different. Kevin Drum explains.
For my money, the worst moment of the night for Romney came on Libya. He hauled out a stale conservative talking point about Obama not calling the Benghazi attack an act of terror, and when he confronted Obama about it, Obama just smiled and let him hang. Unexpectedly, this flustered Romney. Then, a few seconds later, Candy Crowley interrupted to confirm that Obama did, in fact, call it a terror attack the very next day. That really flustered Romney. This is the kind of segment that ends up getting repeated on cable news over and over and over.
Obama had a pretty good line early on about Romney's economic views: "Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan." That one point, of course, is looking out for the interests of the rich. I wish Obama had had a chance to hammer that a little harder, but it never really came up.
Romney has talked before about the idea of capping deductions rather than eliminating them, but this was by far the most public forum in which he's mentioned it. For all practical purposes, I think that makes this the official Romney position: A 20% across-the-board rate cut paired with a $25,000 maximum for itemized deductions. The math on that comes nowhere close to working, though, and it's pretty easy to prove it. I wonder how long it will be before the Romney campaign backpedals on this?
Obama did a good job of hitting Romney on his tax plan, taking it slowly and all but accusing him of deliberately trying to deceive middle-class voters. It's hard to know if this made a dent, though. Too many numbers just puts people to sleep.
Oddly enough, I think both candidates did better tonight than two weeks ago. Obama was, obviously, way better. I'd give him an A-. But Romney was better too. I'd probably give him a good B, maybe even a B+ if I were feeling generous. I don't know how much the first debate really affected the polls, but if it did, this one ought to correct at least some of the damage.
I pretty much have to agree. President Obama was definitely on his A game tonight. While Mitt Romney was also fairly solid in his style, there was finally more attention paid to his shoddy substance.
And perhaps what was most painful for Romney was the removal of the "Moderate Mitt" mask which Romney used so well two weeks ago. Tonight, President Obama was finally able to confront Romney on his delicate dance with the teabaggers, and his current effort to make voters forget about it. Whether on women's health, the 47% versus the 99% (economic justice), Middle East policy, or gun safety, President Obama finally managed to "connect the dots" and point out what Mitt Romney has really been running on.
Tonight may have truly been a "game change" in that President Obama got his groove back... And blunted "Mitt-mentum" for good.