From the gate, Romney took a crucial lead by establishing himself as a calm, cool and confident candidate. Starting off by criticizing the numbers behind the Obama presidency, he also made a point to outline his own ideas about taxes and the deficit. Obama’s response in this part of the debate would set the pace for how he would respond to every criticism thrown his way. He was slow, dry, extremely cautious with his wording, and to be frank, a little shaky.
While many people consider debates a last chance to convince the American people that they should vote for one candidate or the other, undecided voters are said to be be unable to make up their minds because they simply do not understand the issues. Romney often finished off his statements by saying "that's why I'll save people money," which of course justifies anything said just prior to that.
A seemingly easy topic for Obama to handle during the debate should have been taxes -- an issue on which voters trust Obama over Romney, according to polls. But last night, Romney got away clean on the topic by playing down legitimate questions about his tax plan and stressing again and again that he wants to reduce taxes on middle income families.
"Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried," Romney said. "They're just being crushed. Middle income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax in and of itself. I'll call it the economy tax. It's been crushing."
Another criticism that some analysts point out in last night’s debate is that while Romney expressed much desire to cut taxes for the middle class by 20 percent, he failed to establish how he would pay for it without cutting cherished tax deductions.
And instead of taking advantage of that hole in Romney’s argument, Obama veered into a dull, numbers-based criticism of Romney's tax plan that failed to stay consistent with his campaign trail rallying cries about how Republicans favor the rich.
"If you believe that we can cut taxes by $5 trillion and add $2 trillion in additional spending that the military is not asking for," Obama said, "and you think that by closing loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not end up picking up the tab, then Gov. Romney's plan may work for you."
"Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate," Romney retorted. "I'm not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut."
According to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted right after the session, 67% of debate watchers questioned said that Romney won. One in four said Obama was the victor. CNN reports that 33 percent of the respondents who participated in the poll identified themselves as Republicans, 37 percent identified themselves as Democrats and 29 percent identified themselves as Independents.
As the nominees gear up for two more debates this month, and as a government jobs report is set to be released on Friday, the upcoming days could reshape the contest.
Obama has aired more TV ads than Romney in several key states, and it's unclear whether Romney can follow his solid debate performance with the type of home run message that has eluded him so far.