Your post-debate list of talking points, complete with historic videos:
- During the debate and immediately afterwards, I felt, along with most people, that Mitt Romney had performed very well, and Barack Obama quite poorly. The wisdom that comes from a full 16+ hours of perspective does not change that view.
- Everyone is offering explanations for what happened to Obama. Among many others, two worth checking on our site are from Garance Franke-Ruta and Derek Thompson.
- The award for most disgraceful debate interpretation goes to a perennial favorite in this category, John Sununu, who told Andrea Mitchell that Obama had done poorly because he was "lazy."
- The iron law of political coverage is "the story has to change." For several weeks the story had been: Romney gaffes, widening Obama lead. It was going to change one way or another last night. A bad Romney night might have led to a "time for a landslide!" tone. Now it's "Obama shocked, new spring in Romney's step."
- The story will change again. Already we're getting the "hey, don't go overboard on the Romney Knockout" theme. If the Obama team is lucky or successful, the next story will be: Pyrrhic victory for Romney, as many of his claims last night get picked apart. If Romney is lucky, the story will remain: Obama on the slippery slope toward defeat. And of course tomorrow's job numbers will be worked into either theme.
- A lot of what Romney said cried out for real-time challenge, follow-up, or "wait a minute!" rebuttal. I am not at all in the "it was Jim Lehrer's fault" camp, because I respect Lehrer's decision not to assign himself follow-up interrogator duties. He was there to let the principals interact, and that is what he did. An incumbent president should have been fully prepared to handle the follow-up chores.
- Learning from the past, 1980 edition: The first time I heard Mitt Romney make the "he's going to cut $716 billion out of Medicare" claim last night, I mouthed the response I assumed the President was going to give: "There you go again." Surely they had this one ready. Right? Right? Lest we forget:
- Learning from the past, last month edition: Here is another way to handle that $716 billion claim. Every single line of this was available to the Obama prep team. Lest we forget this one too:
Here endeth my debate analysis for a while.
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James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the 2018 book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which was a national best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.