Barack Obama - good: A lot of us were wondering which Barack Obama would be put out there tonight: dopey, dreamy Obama from Debate I, or jerky-pissy Obama from Debate 2? Um, well, he was better. He was a little more relaxed, certainly less argumentative, and much more focused on one-two-three-style argumentation that works so well with voters. Some of his answers were quite goodjust the foreign policy ones, mind youand too often predicted what Romney would have said.
Barack Obama - not so good: Obama was clearly caught out on some questions, particularly when Romney obliterated the Presidents Israel relationship. You could see the Presidents physical discomfort. In many cases, he let Romney talk way too long. But when it came down to it, Obama made it clear he had little more to offer than to blame Bush, repeat debunked routines about Romneys imaginary $5 trillion dollar tax cut, and teacher, teachers, teachers. The President fulfilled every SNL writers dream with more talk of teachers, teachers, teachers. Romney even suggested he stop it: you cant fix every problem with hiring teachers.
Mitt Romney - good: Romney had nothing, really, to lose tonight. Just come on, smile paternally when the President talked, and keep at the economy and the Romney vision for America. The closing statement was exemplary: the President bitched about
Mitt Romney - not so good: A few instant-reaction polls gave this one to Barack Obama, and yeah, the Czar can understand that. Obama was pretty forceful and firm, but the Czar thinks that any declaration of victory by and for the President is just a mealy-mouthed way of saying he was better than the Barack Obamas of Debates I and II.
That said, Romney had one glaring flaw that popped up here and there: he repeated Barack Obama. You can agree with the President, and often Mitt Romney did just that. Giving the President credit is a good thing when deserved, yes. But on a couple of questions, Romney frowned and scribbled notes to himself while the President talked. When Romney was asked to rebut, the Governor effectively repeated what the President said, even using the same words here and there. Better to agree with a nice, simple agreement and then regain control of the narrative. This was most painful during the Syria answer, especially when Romney absent-mindedly quoted the President by saying we need to arm our friends in Syria, and ensure those weapons are not used against us. Jeez, Mitt, pay attention!
So who won? At this point, it didnt matter. While the Czar would declare this an effective tie in terms of clarity and quality of answers, the outcome is not in doubt: people have started to write off Barack Obama. He will see no bounce this week in his numbers, but look for a continued 6-8 point Romney lead going into next week.
There are only two kinds of undecided voters by this point: those who will secretly vote for Romney but fear being razzed by their Obama-voting friends, and those who will vote for Obama and are already embarrassed about it.