The debate just happened, and Democrats everywhere are admitting that President Obama was kind of terrible. It's not that Romney was especially good—he was petulant, bossy, bulldozed over Jim Lehrer's incompetent moderating, and he threw out more imaginary numbers than a B-movie alien—but President Obama was notably bad. There were no real zingers. Romney's much-lauded prepackaged zingers landed flat but not awkwardly so. President Obama got off a couple of snipes about Romney, most notably how Romney's "big, bold idea is 'Never mind"
Near the end of the debate, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
10.29 pm. How is Obama's closing statement so fucking sad, confused and lame? He choked. He lost. He may even have lost the election tonight.
I don't think that Sullivan is right about that last sentence. People are too eager to announce that a candidate has "lost the election tonight." I don't think this was a Nixon's 5 o'clock shadow moment. (I contend that Nixon's 5 o'clock shadow moment is overstated in the history of presidential elections, but that's a whole other conversation entirely.) I don't know how this will affect the polls. I suspect not too much, but the media is now about to enter a full "Romney's coming back!" narrative blitz, and it's going to be difficult for the Obama campaign to grab positive attention for the next few days. To use his overdone phrasing, "the fact of the matter is" that President Obama made his own job a hell of a lot tougher tonight.