Score One for Romney in First Presidential Debate
Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama face off in Denver. (October 3, 2012)
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The challenger was a more forceful debater while Obama appeared less than engaged.
Here are five things we learned on Wednesday:
1. Romney wins by setting the tone
The crucial and tone-setting first 30 minutes of the debate belonged to Romney.
Romney appeared practiced, at ease, confident and fluent in all things Obama. He aggressively criticized the president's record while also outlining, however vaguely, his own ideas about taxes and the deficit.
Obama -- his answers slow, dry and cautious -- looked shaky.
When the sparring turned to taxes -- an issue on which voters trust Obama over Romney, according to polls -- Romney played down legitimate questions about his tax plan and stressed again and again that he wants to reduce taxes on middle income families.
He seized on Vice President Joe Biden's latest verbal miscue about how the middle class has been "buried" by the policies of the last four years.
"Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried," Romney said. "They're just being crushed.
Middle income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax in and of itself. I'll call it the economy tax. It's been crushing."
Obama had a chance to brush his opponent back by hammering home the fact that Romney has been strikingly vague in explaining just how he would pay for an across the board 20% tax cut without cutting cherished tax deductions.
Instead, a lethargic Obama veered into a plodding, numbers-based criticism of Romney's tax plan that was a far cry from his campaign trail rallying cries about how Republicans favor the rich.
Obama's performance in the first part of the debate called to mind a segment on "The Daily Show" in the early days of the Obama administration, when Jon Stewart teased the newly burdened president's press conferences as boring and uninspiring -- a far cry from the inspirational figure of 2008.
Romney entered the encounter with Obama battered, weary and under fire from his fellow Republicans.
At the end of the night, he stood on equal footing in a 90-minute debate with the president of the United States. That's a win.
2. Romney holds his own
It was the biggest question coming into this first showdown: Could Romney seem presidential standing next to the Obama?
The answer appears to be yes.