The consensus among the righties that I follow on Twitter is that it was a push, with Romney acing his answer on the economy and underperforming when he finally took on The One on Libya. Better that than vice versa, though: As Ben Domenech said, only one of those is an issue that people will vote on.
There were several key exchanges — the staredown on energy, Romney politely distancing himself from Bush — but I’m giving you the economy and Libya answers below, via the Examiner and Daily Caller, respectively. Romney seemed unprepared for the pushback from Obama and his pal Candy on what he said about “acts of terror” in the Rose Garden on September 12; The One now wants us to believe that he was forthright about calling it a terrorist attack all along, when in fact he was so coy and evasive that Jay Carney had to clarify his view for the press more than two weeks later. Romney didn’t chase him on that or on all the other nonsense in the aftermath — blaming a “spontaneous protest” when even the earliest intel suggested a terror attack, running ads in Pakistan groveling over a private citizen’s insult to Mohammed, the snowballing revelations about just how indifferent State was to Chris Stevens’s security, etc. O even got to play the part of the indignant C-in-C, declaring how offended he was that anyone would accuse him of playing politics with this issue when, in fact, he’s been playing politics with it since day one. And of course, just as I expected, he finally took meaningless symbolic responsibility for the Benghazi security failure now that Hillary had covered his ass by taking responsibility herself last night.
The good news? Mitt gets another crack at the Libya attack in the next debate, which will focus exclusively on foreign policy. He’ll be very well prepared, rest assured. And since most of the media’s coverage tomorrow will focus on the Libya exchange tonight, that issue will continue to get plenty of coverage for the rest of the week. I can live with that. Exit quotation from Ben Smith: “Romney did, again, come away looking like a guy who could be president, which is probably the most important thing.” Yep.
Update: Here’s something else I can live with:
BREAKING: CBS NEWS INSTANT POLL Who won debate? OBAMA: 37%; ROMNEY: 30%, TIE: 33% (Margin of Error: 4 pts.) http://t.co/ir9VstBX
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 17, 2012
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 17, 2012
I’d much, much rather have had Romney make a strong impression on the economy than “win” overall with barely more than a one-third plurality. If you think undecideds are going to go into the booth in November and think hard about jobs, then these are the numbers you want to see.
Update: Like I said up top:
After that generic reference to “acts of terror” in the Rose Garden — which was so generic that the media forgot all about it for weeks afterward — the White House strained very hard not to call this a terror attack. They desperately wanted it to be a protest that got out of hand, all thanks to that Mohammed movie. If it’s a terror attack, then the administration has to explain why they didn’t see it coming and why The Man Who Got Bin Laden somehow let his ambassador’s compound be overrun by an Al Qaeda affiliate. Which narrative is better if you’re running a reelection campaign?
Update: I didn’t see it, but the word on Twitter is that Frank Luntz’s focus group tonight on Fox was simply brutal to Obama.
Update: I’m hearing now that Anderson Cooper challenged Crowley’s spin on the “acts of terror” comment on CNN’s post-debate show. Jay Cost is right, as usual:
Update: Note to David Axelrod: You sure you want to spend another media cycle or three on Libya?
Update: Via the Washington Free Beacon, here’s O conspicuously refusing to use the T-word to describe Benghazi — on September 25.
Update: NRO’s Patrick Brennan on why Obama’s “acts of terror” reference in the Rose Garden on September 12 wasn’t really a reference to Benghazi:
His only mention of “terror”:
“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.”
One could take that as a reference to acts which include the tragedy in Benghazi, obviously, but there was clearly no effort made to label it an act of terrorism. One reason why this might be: According to U.S. law, acts of terrorism are premeditated. The Obama administration’s line for days following Obama’s Rose Garden statement suggested that the attack wasn’t premeditated.
Update: Via the Examiner, now she tells us:
Upwards of 60 million people likely watched her side with Obama on Libya during the debate. How many saw this clip on CNN’s post-game show? One million, maybe?