I thought both Romney and Obama gave it their all tonight, and both of them did a good job of articulating their opinions. I enjoyed the new format where each had time to develop what they were saying and could respond to each other.
On the issues, I would give it to Obama. I think he made good points against the challenger. Romney made good points against the president as well, however. So, on the issues, conservatives will think that Romney won and liberals will think that Obama won.
Who won the intangibles? Romney did, I believe. He had the advantage of being the challenger, so just standing on the same stage as the sitting president and looking like he belonged there is always a win for the challenger. Romney passed that test. With flying colors.
I think that Obama did fine in the intangibles arena, but he is by nature a more cautious, hesitant, reflective man than Romney is. He made his points quite well and with force. But he didn't have the presence of a leader compared to Romney, or so it seemed to me. That is a pretty big thing when when trying to be elected president.
Romney was amazingly well prepared for this debate. There was never a time when he didn't speak with confidence, precision, and force. He seemed eminently reasonable. He did not appear to be a heartless plutocrat out to destroy the lower classes. He seemed to have a clear idea of who he was and what he stood for. He looked like more of a leader than the president.
However, I think that Romney's intangibles are likely to strike men and women quite differently.
Romney also came across as bullying at times when he butted in and over-rode the moderator. I am not remembering if he ever seemed to be bullying Obama, I think not. So, I think many of women may have seen his presence as being too forceful, not respectful, or perhaps not thoughtful or nuanced.
However, I think that Romney's eagerness and decisiveness probably played pretty well with many men, who saw him as having a larger and more decisive presence.
I think Romney had no problem looking directly at Obama and challenging him, but it looked to me like Obama had difficulty holding eye contact and had to look away to get out of the glare of Romney's forthrightness, and withdraw into himself.
But, is there any real benefit for a president to be a challenging presence? Or is there any real drawback for a president to need to go within and gather himself before responding? I am not sure that it really matters. But I think Romney was a good representative of the Republican brand - strength as represented by direct action; and I think Obama was a good representative of the Democratic brand - thoughtful evaluation in preparation for action.
The convicted will remain convicted. The undecided will respond more to the intangibles than the policies, I would guess. I think more undecided men will be attracted to Romney, and more undecided women will be attracted to Obama.
Edge to Romney in round one, or so I think.