Many in the media want to hand the night to Romney, both on the right and on the left. If you watched MSNBC last night, you would have seen Chris Matthews completely lose his shit while the rest of the panel moved through all five stages of grief in the course of a few minutes.
Why were the conservative pundits filled with joy by Mitt’s performance? Easy: when their guy acts like a complete asshole (interrupts, acts entitled, is rude and loud, talks too fast, lies repeatedly and effectively — essentially behaves like a used car salesman running on little sleep and Red Bull), they feel he’s “mastered” the debate. It’s a pretty simple formula to make conservatives happy. They’re driven by their “guts” and anger. So it’s not for nothing that Mitt has been heavily coached for weeks and months, and that he came out last night as Populist Mitt: Outraged Defender of the Middle Class. Another side to Romney – what a surprise. And which is a joke to anyone who’s paid attention to Mitt for the past several months, if not just the past couple of weeks.
Why were the liberal leaning pundits unhappy with Obama’s performance? Because Obama somehow “allowed” Mitt to act like that, he stood there as Mitt performed with the correct rightwing formula (with added populism for the undecideds!), to show the billionaires that they should continue their river of money for five more weeks. But short of the President transforming into Obama’s Anger Translator Luther in real life, I wonder how they think Obama could have stopped Mittbot’s pre-programmed Entitled Car Salesman upload from running? Could Obama have done a better job of calling out Romney on his lies? Of course. But that’s going to happen anyway in the cold, hard light of the post-debate evaluation of what was actually said.
Kevin Drum: I think Obama lost by a little, but not by much. Matt Yglesias tweets: “It’s interesting that conservatives who think they don’t want Mitt to pivot to the center are clearly elated when he did it and it worked.” That’s true. Romney repeatedly noted that he agreed with Obama on various issues and repeatedly took rhetorically moderate positions. For example: “Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation.” You sure wouldn’t have heard him say that during one of the primary debates.
John Stanton / Buzzfeed: “As president, I will sit on day one, actually, the day after I get elected, I’ll sit down with leaders — the Democratic leaders, as well as Republican leaders” to discuss plans for governing, Romney pledged Thursday during the first presidential debate. President Barack Obama, in one of his few sharp responses, quickly pounced. “I think Governor Romney’s going to have a busy first day, because he’s also going to repeal Obamacare, which will not be very popular among Democrats as you’re sitting down with them.” [...] Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, was equally dismissive. “You can take the ‘Pants on Fire’ rating to the bank on that one,” Fallon said in an email. “The Senate, with 53 Democrats, is the only place in America where Mitt Romney likes the 47 percent,” he added.
“He says that he’s gonna close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan — that’s how it’s gonna be paid for, but we don’t know the details. He says that he’s going to replace Dodd-Frank — Wall Street reform — but we don’t know exactly which ones. He won’t tell us. He now says he’s gonna replace Obamacare and assure that all the good things that are in it are gonna be in (his plan) and you don’t have to worry. And at some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these ‘plans to replace’ secret is because they’re too good? Is it because somehow middle-class families are gonna benefit too much from them?” — Pres. Obama (via)
Daniel Larison: Judging by the standards I mentioned this morning, Romney did most of what he needed to do, but it was likely not enough to lower his high unfavorability rating. Romney came across as competent enough, but as usual he also came across as insufferably smug. Considering how important the debate was for Romney, he did as well as he possibly could have hoped, and that will be reflected in the coverage of the debate tonight and tomorrow.
Marc Ambinder: Why didn’t Obama do better? Here’s some speculation: He is not as good at these formats like Romney is. He was too cautious … even about appearing too flip and arrogant, which might have itself come off as arrogant; he didn’t clip his answers; he didn’t remember to say what he intended to say; he spent the day dealing with Turkey and Syria; he let his disdain for Romney show. I think all of those contributed to some degree. But fundamentally, when it comes to domestic policy, Obama just doesn’t have a very good affirmative argument to make. That’s a consequence of being a crisis president of a country where, as some are now saying, the old dismal is the new normal.
Steve Benen on the $5 trillion tax plan: But those interested in understanding the facts, the policy details are indisputable. As Jonathan Cohn explained overnight: “President Obama repeatedly described Romney’s tax plan as a $5 trillion tax plan. Romney repeatedly took exception. The figure is correct. Romney has not given many details about his tax plan, but it’s possible to extrapolate from his promises and the Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute, did just that. Crunching the numbers, they determined that his proposed rate cut would cost … $5 trillion.” Last night, Romney simply asserted the figure is wrong, but up until yesterday, the Republican campaign has offered a different defense: the cost will be offset by closing tax loopholes and ending deductions. This remains problematic, not just because Romney refuses to identify which loopholes and deductions, but because there aren’t nearly enough loopholes and deductions to make up the difference.