I don't know how you saw it last night, but I found the debate between the President and Romney riveting, with no real knock out punch delivered by either candidate. Romney was just as smiling, confident and nimble as in the first debate, which most observers have conceded to him. On the other hand, Obama couldn't afford another lack-luster performance, and last night he didn't disappoint his fans, aggressive, yet never compromising his characteristic graciousness, delivering dextrous rejoinders to his challenger. I thought his great moment occurred when he summarily said, "Governor Romney says he's got a five-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules."
For me, the ex-governor was at his best when he repeatedly asked if licenses and permits for energy on federal land had been reduced. When earlier Obama had maintained that energy permits and licenses increased during his tenure, Romney came back that those increases occurred on private, not Fed land, where they suffered a 14% decline.
Two very positive moments occurred in the debate that made me feel good about both contenders. The first was when Romney was addressing the immigration concerns of a Latina in the audience. Unlike many office-seekers, Romney didn't pull any punches.
Four million would-be immigrants are standing in line, but are hindered by the large number of illegals.
At the close, I liked Obama's graciousness in remarking that Romney is a "good man," despite the heated, in the grill aspect of this debate and his campaign's unrelenting demonizing of Romney as a liar immediately following the first debate.
My most negative impression is of the moderator's (Candy Crowley) blatant interference in the debate, correcting Romney in his charge that Obama went days before declaring the Benghazi violence a terrorist act, initiating audience applause. It turns out that Crowley didn't get it right. While Obama did use the word "terrorism" in his White House Rose Garden statement, he spoke only of his resolve to combat terrorism rather than specifically dubbing the violence as terrorist. (Most of the press continues to pass on Crowley's imprecision.) Romney missed a golden opportunity to set the record straight.
Anyway, I dislike when a moderator deliberately sets out to circumvent the previously established ground game for this town-meeting format by raising her own questions, which in running the clock also ironically stop gaps other audience members from asking more questions. I think of, say, baseball, where an umpire can sometimes make himself bigger than the game by an obviously wrong call.
Will this debate prove decisive? I don't think so. At this late stage, I would venture most voters have made-up their minds. Each candidate, in any event, did what he had to do. Obama showed-up for this debate and Romney held his ground. Neither candidate committed a serious gaffe. Partisans will find fodder for declaring their candidate the winner.
Of course, there can always be the occurrence of some late moment anomaly such as a global crisis or a glowing or dismal end-of-the-quarter economic report a few days before the election to tip the scales in what appears to be a dead heat