First US Presidential debate: Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney – review round-up

Find out what the US media made of last night's debate between the Republican and Democrat candidates - then have your say in our poll

With less than five weeks to go until Election Day, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama locked intellects last night at the University of Denver for the first of this year’s presidential debates. Discussing the economy, Romney accused President Obama of failing to lead the United States out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. While Obama urged Americans to be patient and argued that his policies needed more time to take effect, Romney used the debate to present himself as a candidate capable of solving problems the Obama administration has been unable to.


The two battled aggressively over tax, the budget deficit and the role of government. But while each man accused the other of being evasive and misleading American voters, it was up to individual citizens and media outlets to decide the victor.

In a piece headed “A lackluster Obama, a revived Romney,” the Los Angeles Times declared Romney the out and out winner. “Until Wednesday, the campaign story was that Obama was building an apparently unshakable lead,” the paper noted. “Now Obama looks as if he’s lost a step and Romney’s showing new life.”

The New York Times also acknowledged Romney’s apparent success, saying: “If Mr. Romney’s goal was to show that he could project equal stature to the president, he succeeded, perhaps offering his campaign the lift that Republicans have been seeking.” The paper also noted that “the first debate could reorder a contest that has recently appeared to be tilting in Mr. Obama’s favour.”

Bill Galston, an advisor to President Clinton, was quoted in USA Today voicing similar sentiments. He said:  “I would not be surprised to learn that a majority of the American people think he won it outright. I suspect that over the next week, the public opinion surveys will show a significant narrowing of the gap between President Obama and his re-energized challenger.”

The Washington Post observed that while “Obama sought to parry Romney’s criticisms,” the President “found himself on the defensive repeatedly during their first debate.”

Noting that Romney “appeared rejuvenated by the opportunity to take his case directly to Obama and the American people,” the Post said: “[Romney] was well prepared and aggressive as he hammered the president. The contrast with Obama was striking…”

The San Francisco Chronicle acknowledged that a number of academics had declared Romney the winner, but the paper also noted: “[Romney’s] lack of details was evident during the debate.

“On several occasions Romney failed to flesh out the specifics of his plans, and he repeated several statements that nonpartisan fact-checkers have deemed inaccurate.”

The Chicago Tribune offered a more even-handed analysis of the debate, opining that “neither Mitt Romney nor President Obama appeared to land a knockout blow or commit the sort of serious blunder that would instantly change the presidential race.”

The Tribune observed that while Romney offered “sharper answers” than Obama and “seized control of the debate at several points,” the President countered by “burying his opponent in the very thing that Romney is said to crave: data.”

You can watch the entire debate on YouTube if you’d like to make up your own mind about who emerged the victor:


The candidates will meet for their second debate on Tuesday 16 October in New York. In the meantime, why not share your feelings about last night’s encounter by voting in our poll?