US presidential debate: Pundits' views

Shadow cast from the debate podium

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney clashed in the first debate of the campaign. How were their performances rated by the pundits watching backstage?

Expert Verdict

The pundits were speaking to the BBC's Adam Blenford in Denver

Glenn Thrush Politico

Glenn Thrush

Barack Obama has not been on a debate stage for 1,400 days and that really showed tonight. Mitt Romney has been in 29 debates in the last 18 months. One guy used to do this passably well (Obama). The other guy currently does it well. The president is really going to have to improve his performance in the next two weeks.

Mark Knoller

CBS News

Mark Knoller

It seemed to me that both candidates spoke with passion. It seemed that they were knowledgeable on their policies and conversant with them. But it appeared that Romney was more confident. Sharing the stage with the president made him seem presidential. And even Obama campaign aides say Romney did himself good tonight.

Molly Ball

The Atlantic

Molly Ball

A major win for Romney by any measure. He was quick, aggressive and energetic, while Obama was rambling and defensive much of the time. The president may have wanted to seem above the fray, but instead he seemed beside the point, and Romney seemed more than capable of stepping into his shoes.

Dan Balz

Washington Post

Dan Balz

The president was not bad but Romney showed up with a clear sense of what he wanted to do. The president was on defence and Romney was on offence. There was a lot of substance, some of it in the weeds. It underscores there are a lot of differences between the two candidates. Romney's campaign feels pretty good. But they will really be looking at where they are in two weeks.

Toby Harnden

Daily Mail

Toby Harnden

Romney came into the debate determined to sell his plan to rescue the American economy. It was a businessman's pitch and he did it masterfully. It was as if Obama was being steamrollered in the process - the president was listless, tetchy and uncharacteristically uncertain. This election is wide open again.

Lawrence O'Donnell


Lawrence O'Donnell

It's impossible to judge a winner tonight. It's not up to anyone on the debate stage or in this room. The answer is in the polling, and we will start to get that next week. If there's no movement in the polls this debate will mean nothing. It would have been entirely neutral. There was nothing said in that debate that was memorable 10 minutes later.

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