Tonight we saw the benefit of being battle-tested: After two cycles worth of Republican primary debates, Mitt Romney has gotten pretty good at this. His boardroom consultant style -- distilling complicated ideas into short digestible bites -- shone in the one-on-one format like it never has before.
And we saw the downside of consistently good press coverage: After years of being treated with kid gloves, Obama showed that when he's off his game, he's really off his game. Obama's answers -- professorial at best, rambling at worst -- might have worked fine in a press conference, but the contrast with Romney was striking.
No serious person will argue that Romney didn't win this debate handily. The best spin Obama's own spokespeople can come up with is that Romney only won on "style." The question now is how much it will move the needle; it will be very interesting to watch the polls in the coming days.
By the way, I'm not sure why PBS chose to replace veteran broadcaster Jim Lehrer with what I can only assume was a part-time substitute teacher who looks just like him, but it was good for some laughs.
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