When I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.
But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that.
. . . So, you see, the man on stage last night does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney's decisions and what he's been saying for the last year. And that's because he knows full well that we don't want what he's been selling for the last year.
So Governor Romney may dance around his positions, but if you want to be president you owe the American people the truth.
So here's the truth: Governor Romney cannot cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan his tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. That's the math.
~ President Obama speaking the day after the debate in Denver, via Jed Lewison of Daily Kos
[Voters] saw another guy that got testy, who interrupted – and interrupted the moderator. I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator because we had Mitt Romney. We should rethink that for the next debate.
~ obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter
You know you've lost the debate when you start blaming the moderator for a poor performance.
. . . I think Jim Lehrer did what all good moderators do, which is to let the candidates describe their differences, Both candidates got an ample amount of time to make their case to the American people, and I think Gov. Romney was the clear winner in that contest.
~ Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom
[Obama] was very very bad last night. He looked depressed, he looked anemic. Those big ears poking out. . . You Could See At The End Of This Debate, Anniversary Or Not, Michelle Wanted To Go Home With Mitt.
~ Anne Coulter on Fox News via Media Matters
[Romney] made a good testimony, but he will be indicted for perjury because he's lying. When you take what he said tonight and compare it to his proposals, to what he has said, to what he has represented, to the Ryan Plan, it does not match what he said tonight. So how are we going to be impressed with someone that made a very passionate and articulate series of lies tonight.
~ Reverend Al Sharpton quoted by Mediaite
It wasn’t an MSNBC debate, was it? . . . Where was Obama tonight? He should watch — well, not just ‘Hardball,’ Rachel [Maddow], he should watch you, he should watch the Reverend Al [Sharpton], he should watch Lawrence [O'Donnell], he would learn something about this debate. There's a hot debate going on in this country. Do you know where it’s being held? Here on this network is where we're having the debate. We have our knives out. We go after the people and the facts. What was he doing tonight? He went in there disarmed.
. . . He (Romney) was going to dominate the time. He was going to be aggressive. He was going to push the moderator around, which he did effectively. He was going to relish the evening, enjoying it. Nothing to do with the words he spoke. Here's my question for Obama. I know he likes to say he doesn't watch cable television, but maybe he should start. Maybe he should start. I don't know how he let Romney get away with the crap he threw out tonight about social security,
~ Chris Matthews after the debate, quoted by Politico
I had one overwhelming impression. I did everything I could not to reach it, but it looked like Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn’t want to be there.
. . . It seemed like Romney was happy to be there. Obama gave me the impression that the whole thing was kind a lot of trouble.
~ CNN's James Carville, former Clinton Adviser
Mitt Romney, trailing in the polls, needed to prove tonight that he could stand on stage with President Barack Obama as an equal and a plausible president of the United States.
He did that in the crucial first 40 minutes of Wednesday night's debate, addressing Obama respectfully, even warmly — but then tangling with a sometimes hazy and professorial Obama on taxes and deficits.
. . . But Romney's core success was that he won by not losing: He has barely weathered a campaign that reduced him to a smaller figure than President Obama. On stage, they were roughly the same size.
~ Ben Smith on BuzzFeed
. . . what people saw last night, I think, was a president that revealed his incompetence, how lazy and detached he is, and how he has absolutely no idea how serious the economic problems of the country are, and how he has failed to even address them. And I think even the liberal press reacted with shock at this revelation and I find it fascinating, now this morning after they’ve slept, to watch ‘em all scrambling around to clean up the mess the president left on the floor last night.
. . . I think you saw him admit it the night before when he delivered the pizzas. He said, you know, ‘They’re making me do this work.’ He didn’t want to prepare for this debate. He’s lazy and disengaged
~ Romney surrogate John Sununu to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC
The usual talking points were hurled back and forth. Yet Romney appeared better able to turn his into more specific attacks on Obama, particularly because the president was in a awkward position: How do you defend yourself from the charge that you should have done more? Obama pointed to accomplishments and positive developments in the economy, tax cuts for the middle class, his successful rescue of the auto industry. But that didn't fully answer Romney's bottom-line accusation.
The president was also placed at a disadvantage when Romney adopted what might be called the Monty Python defense. Obama repeatedly accused the former Massachusetts governor of proposing a $5 trillion tax cut that would likely increase the deficit, force massive cuts in government spending on education, health care, research, environmental programs, and the like, and lead to higher tax bills for the middle class. In response, Romney essentially said, "It does not."
~ David Corn on Mother Jones
I mean with the enormous problems facing our country, the fact that we are the focus is just unbelievable to me, particularly given the fact that you know at another part of the debate, both candidates talked about the importance of education. We are America's biggest classroom. We touch children across the country in every home, whether -- whether you have books in your home or computer or not, almost everyone has a television set.
. . . this is not about the budget. It has to be about politics.
~ Paula Kerger, CEO of PBS, on CNN
Obama supporters are seething that he played rope-a-dope all evening without even trying for a knock-out, but in a debate that often got mired in the weeds of policy, Romney didn’t exactly knock Obama out, either. Romney did himself some good in countering his image as a cartoon cutout of a greedy capitalist, but his performance was probably most satisfying to people already committed to voting for him. And the debate was so languid, so poorly moderated – the candidates were allowed to ramble on into the weeds of policy most people don’t know much about (Dodd-Frank, anyone…?) — and frankly, so dull, it’s hard to imagine many people sat through it all, unless they were either partisans for one side, members of the media, or part of a focus group.
~ Joy Reid on The Grio
It was the story of the night: Obama not just in a defensive crouch but a stunningly conservative one at that, and Romney pressing his indictment of Obama while looking authoritative, eminently reasonable, and even emotive at times.
For what it’s worth, I don’t fault Obama for some of his strategic choices. Liberals are stewing over his refusal to slap Romney for his infamous 47-percent riff. I think Obama made the right call. Pretty much anyone for whom that was likely to matter has already heard the Romney recording. By reminding them of it, Obama risked looking overly snide or cutting.
. . . Will it matter? Certainly not as much as the liberal hyper-ventilators seem to think. As the political scientists tell us, there are only so many undecided voters who tune into these spectacles. The only way a debate could really move poll numbers is if a candidate committed an easily understood, self-sabotaging gaffe that instantly ricocheted across the cable dial. Obama clearly avoided that tonight, and so I don’t expect a major tightening.
~ Noam Scheiber on The New Republic
Overall, I’d expect the polls to tighten, perhaps even substantially. But how much they tighten will be very telling. Wednesday was as good a night as Romney can expect to have in the rest of this campaign, in front of as big an audience as he’ll get, with a maximum of media coverage. So his bounce will help tell us how many voters really remain persuadable, or at least how many of the persuadable voters are paying attention to the final events of the campaign. If that number is high, Romney should close the gap substantially, if not pull slightly ahead. If it’s low, he won’t see much bounce, and it will be that much harder to see his path to victory.
Think about the people you know: How many of the Obama voters who thought Romney won the debate seem ready to change their vote today? Personally, I don’t know any Obama voters who thought he won the debate. But I also don’t know any Obama voters who have said they’re now supporting Romney.
~ Ezra Klein on Washington Post