The president's lackluster debate performance has the right gloating -- and liberals wondering why he didn't fight harder.
DENVER -- The Romney camp began flooding into the post-debate spin room before the candidates had given their closing arguments. They couldn't wait to start the gloating. "Governor Romney was the clear winner," crowed his strategist Eric Fehrnstrom. "If this were a boxing match, it would have been called by the referee." And: "Someone should check the heels on President Obama's shoes. They're probably pretty worn down, because he just spent 90 minutes back on them."
There was no question -- Romney won the debate. He ran away with it. He did all the things the stern-faced pundits and nervous Republicans had spent the past week saying he had to do -- look presidential, articulate a vision, talk specifics. And he was handed the unexpected gift of an opponent who was decidedly off his game -- a stumbling, rambling, dull-edged Barack Obama who spent most of the debate on the defensive.
In CNN's insta-poll of 430 registered voters who watched the debate, 67 percent said they thought Romney had done a better job, versus just 25 percent who gave it to Obama -- the highest-rated performance in any post-debate snap poll going back to 1984. Solid majorities of those polled said they believed Romney would do a better job than Obama on the economy, health care, taxes, and the deficit. Thirty-five percent said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney; 18 percent were more likely to vote for Obama, while 47 percent said it would have no effect on their vote. If those numbers hold and enough voters watched, the debate could have a real impact in Romney's favor.