Matt Lewis

Who won the debate?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

A few thoughts on how Tuesday night’s debate might play on Wednesday (and beyond) …

First, though he wasn’t terrific tonight, President Obama was clearly more energetic than in the first debate. And Mitt Romney was less polished. Because Obama set the bar so low last time — and because he seemed to finish especially strong this time — the storyline could very well be “Obama battles back.”

Overall, conservatives who were skeptical of the Town Hall format probably had reason to be. Individuals are understandably more concerned with their own pressing personal concerns than with macro policy issues, so it’s not terribly surprising that the first question about Libya didn’t come until more than an hour into the debate. Politicians who believe more government can solve problems seem to have an inherent advantage in this format.

A second possibility: Debate coverage is often about TV friendly moments. Rather than getting in the weeds on issues, the media may instead focus on things like sighs and smiles and smirks. If that’s the case, the uncomfortable moments when things seemed to nearly get physical might dominate the coverage. Another clip likely to get a lot of play is the moment when moderator Candy Crowley seemed to side with Obama over the question of whether or not he called Benghazi an “act of terror” during his Rose Garden speech (and some in the audience applauded.)

A third possible storyline could be Mitt Romney’s distancing himself from George W. Bush. This is newsworthy. Yes, Romney was asked about it, but he could have ducked the question. Instead, he was pointedly critical of some Bush policies.

It seems unlikely Romney will be deemed the winner tonight. The question is whether or not this is seen as the beginning of a comeback story for Obama…