Obama v Romney: Pundits' views
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney clashed in their second debate, in New York. But who won?
The answer may be Obama, because his goal following a catastrophically sluggish first debate was so clear - show some life. And indeed, the president aggressively criticised Romney, labelling him a hypocrite and a liar who favours the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor.
But Romney got his licks in, too, wrapping a miserable economy around the incumbent's neck. "The middle class is getting crushed by the policies of a president who does not understand what it takes to get the economy working again," Romney said.
Bottom line - Obama and Romney scored points while turning off independent voters with their point-scoring. Democratic and Republican partisans will find reason to celebrate the debate but it likely did nothing to reshape the closely fought race.
Obama won the debate. Won it big. Maybe not as big as Romney won the first one, but big enough to be clear. More interesting than that, though, is the way he won it. Name me one person - it surely wasn't me - who would have said three hours ago that Obama's best moment of the night, yes, Obama's, would be Benghazi?
There were other moments. Obama won the immigration discussion. He won guns, to the extent anyone's voting on that. He won taxes. Taxes - weird. I was shocked that Romney stood by his 20% and insisted that his math does add up.
If these are truly undecided voters, they're apparently undecided between Obama and the Green Party. Moreover, as I write this, Obama's already enjoyed four more minutes of speaking time than Romney. In a 90-minute debate, that's a big deal.
The lowest and most dishonest part of Crowley's disgraceful "moderation" was when she actually jumped into the debate to take Obama's side when the issue of Benghazi came up. To cover for his and his administration's lying for almost two weeks about the attack coming as the result of a spontaneous protest over a YouTube video, Obama attempted to use as cover the claim that he had called the attack a "terrorist attack" on that very first day during his Rose Garden statement.
Romney correctly disputed that. Crowley, quite incorrectly, took Obama's side and the crowd exploded.
Whether tonight's debate represents the kind of win Democrats hoped for remains to be seen. What is clear is that Obama was consistently on offence against Romney, blasting him with an array of attacks on his character, consistency and policy proposals.
As Romney criticised Obama for not supporting the fossil fuel industry, Obama responded swiftly. "When you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said: 'This plant kills.'"
Obama needed to dominate by having a vision and instead he came out tonight and went after Romney, which worked more to the disadvantage of the president than Romney.
Elections are about the future and not the past and the status quo doesn't win elections. You have to say, "I've done a good job and here are the changes that I'm going to fight for." Obama spent so much time defending what he'd done that he did not get a chance to lay out comprehensive vision for what he's going to do in the next four years.
Barack Obama had one thing going for him coming into this debate: he couldn't be any worse than the last time. Mitt Romney had one drawback: he apparently couldn't be any better.
As it turned out, Obama was much better. Clearer, sharper, more decisive and passionate, he challenged Mitt Romney on the facts and rhetorically he overwhelmed him. It was a rout every bit as conclusive as the first debate. Only this time the victor was Obama. Last time he barely showed up; tonight he showed Romney up.