If you look at the headlines, they say it all. "Chief in Command" reads the Huffington Post. On the front page of the Washington Post we read that "Obama Keeps Romney on His Heels in Last Debate."
Politico's front page says that "Obama Tears into Romney in the Last Debate" and Yahoo declares that "Obama Rattles Romney in Final Debate."
The early polls all show the President with a strong debate win. The CBS poll of undecided voters actually shows the President with a 53-23 lead, which is actually worse than Romney's margin over the President after the first debate: 46-22. The other polls were tighter but the President still had a clear lead. CNN had it at 48-40; PPP had it 53-42 for Obama with the swing voters planning to vote for the President 51-45.
This last is a very good sign as it suggests that this debate is a big factor in voting for the President.
This afternoon, Nate Silver had written a post with this question for the title: "Referendum or Choice, Which Candidate Will Show the Fighting Spirit?"
On that question at least there is no question. It was the President hands down. Romney seemed to come in with a very defensive strategy. Everyone expected Romney to come in with some slash and burn attacks on Libya. However, they never happened. To be sure if they had the President would have had plenty of ammo.
Some have argued that Romney looked as subdued tonight as the President did in Denver and as we saw above this is what the CBS poll seems to indicate. It's as if Romney now considered himself the favorite and just wanted to go mistake free and not say anything dumb-no small order given his history in trying to discuss foreign policy.
The one line he did use he probably would like back. He had been using it a lot-that the navy had fewer ships than 1916. The President had a great answer, probably the most remembered line of the night pointing out that we had more bayonets in 1916 as well and that this isn't a game of battleship were the most ships win.
There are those who want to argue that this debate won't matter-all that matters is the economy. Yet they wouldn't be saying that had Romney won tonight. What they seem to believe is that Romney who has run mostly a very forgettable campaign is going to win the Presidency because who won that first debate in Denver.
I'm skeptical. Nate Silver shows the President's chances in the Five Thirty Eight Forecast at just under 70% now. That was prior to the debate. It's hard to argue that these already rather lopsided odds are going to get tighter based on this performance by Romney.
Those who think that Denver by its lonesome is enough to win the Presidency for Romney-like his whole team that has been speculating lately on wining a landslide-are saying that all that matters in an election is teh first debate. If you win that you can have a bad campaign-not to mention bad policies or those that are wildly unpopular anyway-win the first debate and then lose the Vice Presidential debatre as well and then the 2nd and 3rd debates but win anyway on the strenghty of one debate. It's an interesting theory.