Post-Debate Spin

While most conservative spinners are calling it a “draw,” the MSM CW is that Obama won, and certainly exceeded expectations. Lotta talk about Obama’s passion and effective counter-punching. Unlike first debate, there were potentially three “sound-bite moments”–(1) Mitt’s vehement misstatement about what Obama said in his Rose Garden remarks on Libya, (2) Obama’s success in talking about 47% in final answer to final question after Mitt indirectly brought it up, and (3) already the subject of great hilarity on Twitter, Mitt’s weird reference to reviewing “binders full of women” when making appointments in Massachusetts.

Romney’s successes, such as they were, were in relentlessly pounding in his “referendum message” on Obama’s economic record (lot of repetition, but that is how you pound a message in), and in taking advantage of every opportunity to mention his Massachusetts record. But Obama (and for that matter, the Real Person who asked Mitt to distinguish his policies from Bush’s) took a good deal of the shine off Moderate Mitt, undermining the thin credibility of Romney’s tax plan, tying him several times to his extremist party, and winning exchanges on contraception and immigration.

CBS flash poll of undecideds showed narrow Obama win: 37% Obama, 30% Romney, 33% tie. I’m guessing broader flash poll will show a lot more polarization, with Democratic “discouragement” probably all but vanishing. Notable first debate Chicken Little Andrew Sullivan is on MSNBC right now declaring himself “thrilled” at Obama’s performance.

As a confessed non-visual type, I can’t personally judge the “style points,” but aside from the aforementioned Obama feistiness, it seemed Romney came across more than once as fighting with Crowley (who did not, to her credit, back down against either candidate), and the whole exchange over Libya, including Obama’s visibly angry expression of being offended, seemed bad for Mitt, who accused the president of publicly lying without having his facts straight.

There will be more spin, of course, and that will likely influence public perceptions of what people thought they saw (probably in Obama’s favor), but for the most part we enter that twilight period when we try to figure out if Romney’s post-first-debate poll surge will end or even be reversed. But any way you slice it, the days of debate-related Democratic Panic should be over.

I’ll be back in the morning with more refined analysis and reporting of others’ reactions, but feel free to post your thoughts in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.