Instant analysis: Romney wins first presidential debate

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DENVER, Colo. — The first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is in the books, and Romney appears to be a clear winner in the debate. Trailing in the polls coming into the debate, Romney needed a strong performance to show the American voters that he can hold his own against the incumbent president.

Romney came out strong, articulate and drove the debate, setting the tone early, which Republicans praised. President Obama, on the other hand, appeared nervous at first, stumbling on his responses and had a hard time looking Romney in the eyes. Romney was also not afraid to cut off moderator Jim Lehrer, whereas President Obama was more apologetic.

NBC's Chuck Todd tweeted: "That first segment was about as good of a first segment that I can remember in my lifetime of watching these fall debates. Serious."

Deseret News:

"Obama can be charismatic and charming. And tough. But his visage is blank. No smiles. No anger. Just flat...," tweeted @mattklewis.

Others tweeted about Romney being a good fit to challenge President Obama in the debate. Over the past few months, Republicans have struggled to completely get behind Romney, but after Romney's strong debate performance, some may reconsider their skepticism.

"Romney is the worst possible matchup for Obama because he is so specific and so precise and so knowledgeable and so quick on his feet," tweeted @DavidLimbaugh.

Even though Republicans are happy with Romney's performance, Romney needs to address the specifics more of his plan instead of saying he has a plan for this or that.

While the issues discussed were not all that new to the respective campaigns, both candidates showed a clear distinction in their plans for America. Given the short amount of time the candidates were able to discuss the issues, both answered the questions relatively well, but oftentimes spun the question to fit their talking points. Romey, especially, had a few questions about his upcoming plan that were unaddressed.

Presidential Debate Grades
Did the candidate answer the question?
  • Barack Obama: B
    • President Obama addressed many of the question, but didn't hit them completely head on.
  • Mitt Romney: C+
    • Romney answered some questions directly, but used the questions as a way to talk about what he wanted.

Were their statements based on fact?
  • Barack Obama: B
    • Overall, President Obama was mostly on target. He made a statement about Romney's tax plan that weren't completely accurate (according to Romney's plan).
  • Mitt Romney: B
    • Overall, Romney spoke with facts on his side, but he didn't discuss in detail his various plans.

How was their delivery?
  • Barack Obama: C
    • President Obama was subdued and seemed to struggle with some answers. Substance was there, but there was a lack of energy.
  • Mitt Romney: A
    • Romney controlled the debate and was more articulate, showing more energy in his answers.

How did they present themselves?
  • Barack Obama: C
    • President Obama did not look comfortable in the debate and seemed to lack confidence against Romney.
  • Mitt Romney: A
    • Romney was everything the Republicans wanted: attack the president with energy and contrast the issues.

Did they appear genuine?
  • Barack Obama: A
    • President Obama appeared genuine in his answers, but lacked enthusiasm.
  • Mitt Romney: A
    • Romney, too, appeared genuine, not completely pandering to the Republican base.
Who was the overall winner?
  • Mitt Romney
    • Romney has more recent experience in the debates and seemed well prepared. President Obama, however, did not bring his "A" game. Romney did what Republicans wanted him to do.

While the debate is essential to help American voters contrast the two candidates' plans, it's hard to say the election will shift in one way or the other, or that one of the candidates is a lock in November. However, early voting is a new twist to the election that allows several Americans to cast their ballot Thursday, which could likely be advantageous for the Romney campaign.

While the first debate likely goes in the corner of Romney, expect President Obama to come out in the second and third debate fired up. Romney needed to come out fired up to spark energy in his campaign. President Obama doesn't necessarily need to do the same, but needs to show more life than what was present Wednesday night. It's a fine line between sounding presidential and letting your opponent control the debate.

The following is an instant analysis of the candidates points and counterpoints of the issues when they were discussed.

Role of Government

Obama says if all Americans get an opportunity, it enhances the country, which is his job to protect. He said his first role is to keep the people safe, something he's worked on every single day in office. Obama said businesses and schools should work together to help education improve. He said he believes Romney wants people to do well, but doesn't get it. Obama said more opportunities should be given to help students get a good education — student loans.

Buzz Feed's McKay Coppins tweeted: "Obama has listed at least 6 or 7 things he and Romney "agree on." Utterly baffled by why he's doing this when *he's in the lead.*"

Romney says the role of government is to protect the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He said Americans should have religious freedom and care for everyone. Romney said individuals should be able to pursue their dreams, not saying the government can do a better job than Americans pursuing their dreams.

Additionally, education should be at the local area, with some help from the federal government — let the parent decide where they let their children go. Romney said the government shouldn't be the pickers and choosers for who gets what.

CNN's John King tweeted: "strong @MittRomney moment; ‘we know the path we are taking is not working. It is time for a new path' @BarackObama strong education pts."

Health Care

Romney says he wants to cut Obamacare to help put money back in Medicare. He said Obamacare is less likely to help employers hire more people because of high insurance prices — it has killed jobs. Romney said a health care plan needs to be individualized for the particular state. Romney said the Massachusetts plan was a bipartisan effort while the national plan was only a Democratic plan; the states should discuss the issues, they have good ideas. He said the government shouldn't take over and mandate what kind of treatment individuals deserve.


Obama says his plan helps secure families, especially the middle class. Obamacare won't let insurance companies "jerk you around." Obama said it hasn't killed jobs and Massachusetts plan was a model plan for the nation — Romney's idea. He said Obamacare was a bipartisan effort, taking it from GOP. When Obamacare is fully implemented, he said, we'll be able to show that health care cost will go down.


Candidates started talking about Social Security, but quickly shift to Medicare. Romney says he will not change anything for those who currently receive it. He says his option for younger individuals is to accept Medicare or seek out a private plan. Obama says their plans are similar but will have a few differences, especially his disagreement with a voucher system.

President Obama said costs need to go down while not harming the benefits for families who rely on Medicare.

Federal deficitRomney starts out the segment saying the federal deficit comes down to a moral issue — the United States should not be borrowing money from China to pay for unnecessary government projects, such as PBS (even though Romney loves Big Bird). Obama says America should not give tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, which will allow the deficit to be reduced because Americans will be paying taxes. Fox News analyst Bret Baier tweeted: "I really didn't guess that "I like Big Bird" would be a phrase that would pop up tonight - I just didn't."

Romney continues to hit Obama on the issues, while Obama continues to skirt around several different issues.

Former Republican candidate Hermain Cain tweeted: "At this point Obama has got to be desperately scanning the room for his teleprompter.."

David Gregory tweeted: "Romney delivery is crisp, well outlined so far. Still seems like both are running through all their talking points."


The candidates were asked to discuss how they would produce more jobs. President Obama said education was the foundation to helping create jobs, while Romney said energy and trade are the cornerstones to his plan.

Romney appears to be more aggressive, while President Obama seems more subdued and a little more nervous.

Twitter user @auslinford said: "Obama is not looking good right now. Romney needs to tell Obama that he simply does not understand job creation. #utpol #debate"

Both candidates are talking about the issues, but skating all over the issues. President Obama attacked Romney's plan, but Romney says his plan is being misinterpreted, saying he will not decrease the tax rate for wealthy individuals.

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Josh Furlong


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