I'm waiting for my orders from the Politburo on how to spin this thing -- so you'll have to debate amongst yourself for a bit longer. To be updated...
My overall opinion hasn't changed since I wrote it up for "the newspaper" 10 minutes after the debate ended: Obama looked like the one who was half-dead in Denver and Mitt Romney looked like he had too much caffeine (which is kinda of funny because, uh, he actually can't drink caffeine...oops), and Romney clearly won the debate.
Romney certainly won on body language -- which to a lot of people is the most important part of a debate -- but he also won, and this is what surprised a lot of people, in exoressing empathy -- which is very important indeed. Where everybody fell flat in was ideas. Both candidates sounded wonky, but when you peeled back the wonkery there wasn't a lot there for either Obama or for Romney.
Call me crazy but I thought the worst momemt of the debate wasn't Obama looking down at his shoes but Romney trying to explain how his tax cut -- the centerpiece of his campaign -- isn't really a tax cut, but...What the hell is it? Seriously, I think you don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that cutting rates while eliminating deductions will benefit the wealthy and hurt the middle class. Why Obama didn't hammer him for that is a big reason why we're all talking today about what a disaster Obama was. You'll be shocked* to learn I've gotten a fair number of emails and calls from Romney supporters gloating about how their man "pounded" Obama. But none of them mentioned any of Romney's brilliant ideas on taxes, jobs or health care. So I guess we did see the same debate, after all.
Most of the time, we all put on a big show complaining that our politics values style over substance. But not on Debate Night oin America, when we make little pretense of admitting that it's anything but a sporting event, only lacking Fox's exploding helmeted robots or an intro song by Pink (but just wait wait a few more cycles). The most famous U.S. presidential debate line of all-time was Ronald Reagan telling Jimmy Carter, "There you go again!" Do you have any idea what the issue was they were debating about? Would it really matter if you knew?
Arguably the second most famous debate question of all time was when Walter Mondale said to Gary Hart in the 1984 primaries: "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?'"
America gets two more chances to see whether either Romney or Obama will ever answer it in 2012.