(Washington Post) Most everyone agrees: Mitt Romney won the first debate of the 2012 presidential election on Wednesday.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll released after the debate showed 67 percent of viewers thought Romney won, while just 25 percent said the same of President Obama. And a CBS poll showed 46 percent of undecided voters said Romney won, compared to 22 percent who said Obama won.
While Romney's workman-like performance may have lacked one single big moment, there were a lot of reasons he came out ahead.
Below, we expound upon six of them:
1. He controlled the format: For better or worse, moderator Jim Lehrer largely let the candidates sort out the debate themselves, essentially broaching broad topics and letting the candidates duke it out on their own terms - with almost-endless rebuttals. This format favored Romney. Romney's campaign went into the debate with an attack mindset (as most candidates who are behind do), and by allowing all those rebuttals, Lehrer gave Romney a chance to execute. He did. Obama wasn't as focused on attacking, which works less well when there is so much back-and-forth.
2. Obama seemed frazzled: He didn't have an Al-Gore-sighs moment, but Obama was clearly not having a good time on stage. His head was down when Romney was talking, his responses were halting at times, he often nodded (as if showing approval) or smirked when Romney was talking, and he even conceded some points to Romney on issues like deficit reduction and not being a "perfect" president. None of these were by themselves huge moments (as Gore's sigh was), but the totality suggested a candidate who wasn't terribly comfortable. And he wasn't.