Romney clearly won. He was clear, positive, and managed to remove the caricature that has characterized his public image in recent months.
Romney sold vaporware. Obama's plan is full of bugs and a clumsy interface and Romney's plan will do everything better. He just hasn't defined it yet. We know he's going to reduce the deficit by growing the economy and cutting programs but we don't know which programs or why the economy will grow faster without a program. If vague works, he could win this.
Big Bird has to be hating Jim Lehrer, who did so little to defend NPR's reputation. Based on just his performance, it wouldn't be obvious why Americans should subsidize public broadcasting. Yet a world where coverage is left to MSNBC and Fox instead of NPR, PBS, and BBC seems like a far lesser world.
Obama was caught flat-footed a number of times. Coming into this debate, I would have said that Romney was far more reliant on platitudes than Obama, who is steeped in reality given he has to do the job daily. And yet based on how they appeared in the debate, Romney was factual and Obama was hand waving.
Romney came prepared to say things. Obama was prepared to answer questions. Little about what Obama said seemed intentional or to reflect a clear statement of what he wanted to do over the next four years.
Mormons live 10 years longer than the average American, and based on Romney, that seems about right: he only looks about 4 years older than Obama, not 14 years older, as he is.
Sadly for Romney, this was a boring debate. He might have won voters had many folks been watching. It was so policy specific that it is hard to imagine the (possibly fictional) undecided, poorly informed voter following the arguments for 90 minutes.
The coverage of Romney's "surge" will dominant the news media over the next week. If Ryan does well against Biden (and I suspect he will), this will become a very big deal and the media will trumpet Romney's come back. In the end, though, it will probably be like the coverage of Santorum and Gingrich's rise in the polls during the primaries: an exciting (for reporters and talk show hosts) interruption from covering the inevitable.