I argued in my Atlantic story last month that Mitt Romney was better at debating than he was at any other aspect of campaigning, and that Barack Obama, famed and redoubtable orator, was worse.
Anyone feel like disagreeing with that, after the past 90 minutes?
I am not talking about whether I agree with the two candidates' positions. Obviously I agree more with Obama, and I believe that more of his facts and assertions are "true." I am talking about crispness in presenting positions within the constraints of this particular format, and the air of overall ease in the encounter.
If you had the sound turned off, Romney looked calm and affable through more of the debate than Obama did, and the incumbent president more often looked peeved. Romney's default expression, whether genuine or forced, was a kind of smile; Obama's, a kind of scowl. I can understand why Obama would feel exasperated by these claims and arguments. Every president is exasperated by what he considers facile claims about what he knows to be impossibly knotty problems. But he let it show.
It's a good thing for Barack Obama that there are a couple more debates ahead.
Maybe in prep sessions for the next ones they'll give him a comeback to Mitt Romney's multiply repeated "cut $716 billion from Medicare" line, which is that the Ryan/Romney plan CUTS THOSE $716 BILLION AND MORE. (Why, exactly, did we not hear that from Obama each time Romney used the number?)