Mitt Romney won the debate. Does it matter?

Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama  participate in their first debate at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, 3 October 2012 The Obama team wants to pass off Mitt Romney's win as one of style over substance

The first trial is over and the jury's verdict is clear. But the judge's sentence is not.

Conservatives continually accuse the main American media outlets (Fox News excepted) of being in President Obama's corner.

But there was a rare agreement over last night's debate: Mitt was a hit.

What we don't yet know is what the American people make of that verdict and whether it shifts any votes, or enough to matter.

'Devoid of honesty'

The Obama team aren't trying to pretend their man had the best of it. They are claiming only a victory of substance over style. Their tactic is to dismiss the debate as so much theatre.

Campaign strategist David Axelrod said Mr Romney "may win the Oscar for his performance, but he won't win the presidency for his performance". He added the act "was devoid of honesty".

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But imagine you are undecided, you don't care much about ideology, but want some one who looks like a vigorous, motivated leader”

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He said the campaign would take a long hard look at last evening before the next debate in New York, in two weeks time, and make judgements about "where we draw our lines and how we use our time".

It sounds as it they are considering challenging Mr Romney a lot more.

The president himself told an audience in Denver: "When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney."

"But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favour the wealthy. The fellow onstage last night said he didn't know anything about that."

The tactic is clearly to dismiss Mr Romney as an actor playing a part, in a briefly successful role, whose performance is a fiction.

Moving the undecideds

It might work. But the debates could work in persuading the very people Mr Romney needs to convert. The debates are, of course, performance, but body language, tone and style can matter.

The bottom line was that Mr Romney seemed not only more animated, but more motivated; Mr Obama seemed lacklustre, unexcited, even a bit bored.

Now, most people know how they are going to vote, and they aren't going to change because of those sort of vague judgements. But imagine you are undecided, you don't care much about ideology, but want someone who looks like a vigorous, motivated leader.

Mr Romney on the stump, in the adverts, hardly fits the bill. Last night's incarnation was much more convincing.

The next opinion polls will be important and will tell us whether debates can make a difference.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • Comment number 264.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    262 doug
    You haven't grasped the tax changes proposed, where losses in tax revenue to 20% are expected to be compensated by removing tax deductions after $17,000, which tax policy centre state is a no go non-worker redundant proposal

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Let's deal with the fact check first.
    Romney claims that he will close tax loop holes to raise the increased tax revenue, BBC fact checks says that is not possible. Yet somehow he has managed to find ways to only pay 14% Tax and Obama a 20% tax rate. Obviously there are loop holes that can and should be closed. Strike one for BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Obama did badly as he was referring to facts regarding policies where majority of Americans tend to be less discerning about concentrating on technical factual details when hear say is all they require

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    246.FauxGeordie :
    But lets face it - theres a very obvious reason why your type hates Obama"
    I hope this isn't referencing race -for either Pres. Obama or folks who comment here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Some like chocolate
    Some like vanilla

    Racism needs to be put in context of past present
    like torture from mau maus 50 years ago to present
    crimes and wrongs are never acceptable even in wars

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Good god. Still going?

    You don't understand even the simple basics of 'left wing' or 'racist' - you throw accusations around on a foreign website that expose only your ignorance.

    I have lived and worked in the US - it s a place I love - I have a poor opinion of your current president . Your ignorance shames you & your country

    If as some have suggested you are paid for this - its wasted money

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    An honest journalist! Tom Brokaw said that if Romney had performed like Obama did at the debate, it would have been all over for him.

    Romney deserves extra points for doing an end run around the media and for not letting it decide it's over for him already.

    Wonder how much "fact checking" will occur around these new and improved unemployment figures...

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    251. Lou

    And this is why it's not possible to have an honest conversation about race. The only "honesty" tolerated is when one is either accused of, or admits to, being a racist.

    There are a lot of people making this claim who are, themselves, racists. But that's not part of the race discussion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    Wow, with that smug, self-righteous, arrogant attitude how do you to get your head through door ways?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    So if my admiration and respect for these proud African Americans who stood up to and overcame adversity and abject hatred and derision to profess their true beliefs in American freedom and democracy is, in your own words is "stupid" then you sir are the one who is showing his own ignorance, intolerance, and bigotry...not me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    And that makes you in the Orwellian context the "unman".

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    I know who they are. I suggest you make a small attempt to understand what 'left wing' might possibly mean. Right now you are making yourself look deeply stupid

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Just for the record, I have the greatest admiration and respect for General Colin Powell, Ron Christie, Octavius Valentino Catto, Henry Cheatham, Eldridge Cleaver, Michel Faulkner, James Golden, Alveda King, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas, Allen West, and Mia Love, along with many others. Look them up and get educated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    249 - 248

    I don't rate Obama. You two are ridiculous.

    Keep trotting out the rabid conspiracy theories though.

    And - very important -

    Keep digging

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    As a point of fact, 2008, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Representative Charles Rangle all went on the record at different times and in different venues to express their dislike and distrust of newly elected President Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    ref #243

    It means a man who has got a free ride his entire adult life. How many people are made heaed of Harvard Law Review with no articles?

    How many people are elected or even run for President with a 2 year Senate career and zero accomplishements
    We know what type of person you are, apc relfexive who refuse to allow criticsm of the annoited one

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Based on the American Political Spectrum Obama & many of his supporters publicly & privately espouse an extreme left wing doctrine which is to curb dissenters’ freedom of speech, press, & religion. Obama wants to make the federal government supreme in all things, over all things, that is why Romney's approach of reinvigorating the
    10th Amendment is such a threat to Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    245 Delusional, simply delusional. The idea of any US politican being even remotely left wing is a laugh for a start - and he put Goldman Sachs in charge of fixing Wall St. You have no idea whatsoever what 'left wing' means. I'm not even an Obama fan.

    But lets face it - theres a very obvious reason why your type hates Obama

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    McCarthy was nothing more than a moon-cast shadow compared to Obama's extreme left wing attempt at mass political reeducation. McCarthy just didn't try to hide his true intentions and eventually the press of his day rightfully crucified the man.


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