“For someone who has been so often and vociferously criticized for allegedly lacking a core and being ideologically mushy and malleable, Romney articulated conservative convictions that were refreshing, surprising, and compelling,” Reed said.
Republicans, however, stressed that one debate is not a game-changer, and Democrats saw some progress for Obama.
Romney linked himself with a voucher system for Medicare during the debate, said Democratic strategist Bob Shrum . He also stated that his tax-paring plans would not increase the financial burden on the middle class.Obama has said Romney could not make that work by closing loopholes and deductions for businesses and the wealthy.
Now, Obama supporters said, Romney is stuck with those positions.
Shrum agreed with Devine that polls might tighten and said he does not believe the race has changed significantly. Nevertheless, Shrum said he expects that Obama will have a different demeanor in the next debates, scheduled for Oct.16 at Hofstra University and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.
“I don’t think that’ll happen again,” Shrum said of Obama’s low-intensity approach.
Devine speculated that Obama’s staff made a deliberate decision not to launch personal attacks against Romney. “For a guy who’s winning a race in large measure because people like him, I don’t think strategically you can say that was such a terrible choice,” Devine said.
In hindsight, he said, “maybe they would do it differently.”
That difference has long been evident in Obama’s campaign appearances, in which he delivers an animated stump speech that takes direct, personal aim at Romney.
That style was on display at the Denver rally on Thursday.
“When [Romney] was asked what he’d actually do to cut the deficit and reduce spending, he said he’d eliminate funding for public television,” Obama said. “That was his answer. I mean, thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird.”
Axelrod said Obama the debater might channel some of Obama the campaigner in the future. “You can’t allow someone to stand there and basically manhandle the truth and not deal with that. I’m sure that that is a takeaway from this debate,” Axelrod said.
For their part, Republicans said their candidate might be hitting a long-awaited stride.
Romney “has been under enormous attack — the Obama campaign has excoriated him and done a good job at it,” said Patrick Griffin, a GOP strategist in New Hampshire. On Wednesday, he “refuted those charges very effectively with both substance and style.”