The biggest problem with presidential debates is they tend to be all about the zingers in the end. In fact, there was a story floated by the media this week that Mitt Romney has prepared a playbook of zingers for the debate. I think after tonight, that story was bunkum, however, the story that Romney had been preparing like crazy for this debate is very believable. And that's good news. What better quality could you ask for in a president than excellent preparation? (i.e. He does his homework.)
Yes, it's true that the challenger usually does better in the first debate as he tries to land a punch, but it was more than that. Romney was prepared, he was aggressive but not a bully, he took control of the room and answered allegations with lists of counterpoints (Paul Ryan influence?). Obama wouldn't make eye contact with Romney for about the first 30 minutes, seemed to get some kind of rhythm after that and then coasted the rest of the way trying to run out the clock. The MSNBC cabal was forlorned. Obama spokespeople blamed Jim Lehrer.
Romney won the debate and Obama suffered by not having a teleprompter and more importantly being out of shape debate-wise. As many pointed out on Twitter, he hasn't been challenged, really challenged, in four years (if not longer). If the media actually put him through his trials once in a while he might be better prepared.
I agree with Krauthammer that this isn't a 'total game-changer, it's over, Romney is President' performance but it is a serious boost to Romney's campaign. One more month with this kind of energy and he can win this thing. The next debate will be much different as Obama will be more prepared (right?), so don't get cocky but stay the course you've set tonight.
On another note, Lehrer is gonna get a lot of grief from the MSM, but this is the best debate I've seen in years, and not because Romney won. What's been missing from debates with their stupid town-hall formats, with scripted questions from "real" people, is interaction between the candidates themselves. Lehrer got run over by Romney and later Obama but that was a good thing. The accidental format of "here's the topic: discuss..." was the best thing that could have happened. These two men are the warriors the country has chosen for the final battle in November. Many of us are dying for a little bit of "This is Sparta!" We (at least us red state types) got some of that tonight.