RICHARD ROEPER: Winner: Romney -- He took control of the debate in the first 10 minutes and seemed to gain confidence as the night went on, while the president came across as dour and disengaged.
Updated: October 3, 2012 11:26PM
He took control of the debate in the first 10 minutes and seemed to gain confidence as the night went on, while the president came across as dour and disengaged.
Biggest flub of the night: Why, oh why, did President Obama bring up Donald Trump, he of the buffoonish conspiracy theories about the president’s birthplace? Obama’s attempt at a humorous reference to the Donald only served to remind us the president pays far too much attention to what people say about him. Why give the guy the time of day?
The knock-out punch: I thought Romney was the clear winner by a decision, but neither candidate scored the proverbial knock-out punch. The only participant who took multiple standing eight-counts was esteemed moderator Jim Lehrer, who failed to set the tone early by holding the candidates to their allotted time. Time and again, Lehrer allowed Romney and Obama to steamroll him.
Which candidate looked like he would rather be anywhere else: The president. Romney seemed more energized, focused and on point. Obama was surprisingly flat, even when telling overly familiar anecdotes about his grandmother.
More specific. Romney recycled sound bites from his stump speeches.
Best example: Obama cites the Cleveland Clinic.
Best zinger: “If you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen.”
Worst flub of the night: Obama saying he and Romney basically have the same position on Social Security.
The words I got sick of hearing: Romney’s memorized lists: “No. 1…No. 2 … No. 5 … zzzz.”
The cringe moment: Romney: “Higher-income folks are doing just fine in this economy.”
The most ridiculous non-answer: Romney on Medicare. Sidsteps Paul Ryan’s beliefs that in theory he believes in
He provided crisp, focused answers and was aggressive but respectful to the president. Romney achieved his debate goal of spotlighting where Obama misrepresented his policy positions.
Best new look at an old issue: In talking about tax benefits to the oil and gas industries, Romney noted that Obama has given in one year what oil and gas would get over 50 years at the current rate. Romney referred to the failure of the solar company Solyndra and quipped: “You don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers.”
Which candidate looked the most presidential: Both looked presidential, which means Romney elevated his status with this debate. Obama wasn’t helped at times by looking impatient at some of Romney’s answers.
Close to a cringe moment: Obama tended to filibuster at times, going over the two-minute limit for opening comments. “I had five seconds left before you interrupted me,” Obama chastised moderator Jim Lehrer at one point.
Romney kept jabbing away and was able to put President Obama on the defensive on health care and tax breaks.
The shining moment: Romney’s high-wage earners will do fine whether you are president or I am president. Romney was able to set an aggressive tone early on and kept at it.
Worst flub of the night: Obama’s: “I had five seconds before you interrupted” in response to Jim Lehrer’s attempt to cut him off. Never a good idea to cut off the moderator.
The phrase I got sick of hearing: Bill Clinton did blah blah blah. Even Romney evoked the name of the former president to push his Medicare plan.
The cringe moment: Every time Obama flashed a grin or said “right,” or shook his head in agreement when Romney was talking. What kind of debate strategy is that? Oh wait, Obama pulling on his nostril — on TV. It’s a nervous habit that I thought he had gotten over by now.
The most ridiculous non-answer: Romney’s “I like Big Bird. I like you, too.” Really?