Winner: Mitt Romney
Scores: Obama 76 | Romney 78
Judge: Jason Jarvis
I give this debate to Mitt Romney because he was superior in manner (style) and matter (substance). While I am not sure that this debate was a “game changer” for Mitt Romney, he certainly exceeded expectations and held his own on the substantive issues.
On substantive issues, Romney was strategic and knowledgeable. A good example of Romney’s tactical coherence was his explanation for how he perceives the role of government. Romney spoke passionately about the middle class and successfully applied the label “trickle down government” to Barack Obama’s approach to governing. Similarly, in discussing healthcare, Romney highlighted his success at bipartisanship as a governor in bringing Democrats and Republicans together to address problems.
It is fair to say that the moderator lost control of this debate. To his credit, Jim Lehrer managed to ensure that both speakers were able to respond to their opponent. However, the debate would have been better with more regulation. Nonetheless, stylistically, Barack Obama lacked passion and brevity. His eye contact was poor throughout the debate, as he rarely appeared to address either his opponent or the audience/camera, focusing almost exclusively on his notes. While he ended the debate with several more minutes of total speaking time, he would be well served to give shorter, more direct answers to questions in the next debate.