Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s strong showing in the first debate has recharged his campaign and ignited a presidential race that had seemed all but won by US President Barack Obama, US commentators said yesterday.
Obama, who appeared to spend much of the 90 minutes looking at the podium while Romney looked at him, signaled that he will not let up on his message that Romney’s plans on taxes, health care, the deficit and more do not add up.
“It’s fun,” Romney declared well into Wednesday night’s debate, clearly relishing the back-and-forth.
“It’s arithmetic,” said Obama, hammering at Romney’s conspicuous lack of details.
Two debates remain before the Nov. 6 election, one on Oct. 16 and another on Oct. 22.
The campaigns now head to some of the most hotly contested states over the next few days. With 13 days before their next debate, Obama and Romney have time to hone their arguments while their campaigns continuing to bombard those contested states with negative ads that go far beyond the more restrained attacks of the debate.
Notably, Obama made no mention of Romney’s secretly recorded remark that he is not worried about the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay taxes.
In next few weeks, Romney is expected to give a number of speeches filling in details to answer criticism that he has not clearly outlined his plans. The Republican challenger begins with a foreign policy speech in Virginia on Monday.
Romney has promised to balance the budget in eight years to 10 years, but has not explained how.
“At some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good?” Obama said, in a rare show of passion.
Romney maintained it was Obama who was getting the numbers wrong, telling him: “Mr President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”
Morning editorials were almost unanimous in saying that an energized and aggressive Romney had gotten the best of a tired-looking Obama on Wednesday, potentially tightening the race five weeks before the vote.
“Barring revelations by the Obama campaign that Mitt Romney has an identical twin, whoever that guy representing the GOP [Grand Old Party] ticket was in Denver has just given the US a real presidential election. At last,” the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger wrote.
Conservative columnist William Kristol of the Weekly Standard went further, saying Romney had “stood and delivered the best debate performance by a Republican presidential candidate in more than two decades.”
The more centrist Washington Post largely agreed, saying Romney had regained momentum after weeks of campaign missteps.
Roger Simon of the Politico news Web site wrote that “President Obama looked like someone had slipped him an Ambien.”
“It’s not that Romney’s performance was perfect or polished — it wasn’t — it’s just that Obama’s was so mediocre,” he added.
Liberal commentators preferred to focus on Romney’s alleged distortions, decrying what they saw as Obama’s failure to fight back.
The left-leaning New York Times said the Romney of the debate “seemed to be fleeing from the one who won the Republican nomination on a hard-right platform of tax cuts, budget slashing and indifference to the suffering of those at the bottom of the economic ladder.”
However, it admitted that “Mr Obama’s competitive edge from 2008 clearly dulled, as he missed repeated opportunities to challenge Mr Romney on his falsehoods and turnabouts.”
Despite all the fanfare around presidential debates, the prime-time standoffs rarely have a major effect on elections. Ahead of Wednesday’s debate Obama had a lead in the key battleground states that — because of the US voting system — will likely decide the winner.