Mitt Romney was the clear winner of the first 2012 presidential debate held in Denver.
He had obviously practiced so hard and so long that he was nearly hoarse.
Mitt Romney looked Barack Obama in the eyes as he interrupted with animation, overriding the moderator, insisting on a comeback. He didn’t seem rude. He did seem in command and to be enjoying the scrap.
President Barack Obama on the other hand looked as though he’d much rather be out celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife. He started out looking very nervous, swallowing hard, not the confident performer we are used to seeing.
Barack Obama warmed up and got into his stride but that meant he ended up giving overlong, mini-lectures straight to camera rather than engaging, arguing. He seemed unwilling to actually enter a debate with his opponent, and missed a few obvious openings when he could have attacked Mitt Romney.
Two-thirds of people who watched the first presidential debate think that Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the showdown, according to a nationwide poll conducted Wednesday night.
According to a CNN/ORC International survey conducted right after the debate, 67% of debate watchers questioned said that the Republican nominee won the faceoff, with one in four saying that President Barack Obama was victorious.
“No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
While nearly half of debate watchers said the showdown didn’t make them more likely to vote for either candidate, 35% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Mitt Romney while only 18% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect the president.
More than six in ten said that president did worse than expected, with one in five saying that Obama performed better than expected. Compare that to the 82% who said that Mitt Romney performed better than expected. Only one in ten felt that the former Massachusetts governor performed worse than expected.
“This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It only represents the views of people who watched the debate and by definition cannot be an indication of how the entire American public will react to Wednesday’s debate in the coming days,” cautions Keating Holland.
The sample of debate-watchers in the poll was 37% Democratic and 33% Republican.
“That indicates that the sample of debate watchers is about four points more Democratic and about eight points more Republican than an average CNN poll of all Americans, for a small advantage for the Republicans in the sample of debate-watchers,” adds Keating Holland.
The poll suggests that the debate didn’t change opinions of the president. Forty-nine percent of debate watchers said before the debate that they had a favorable opinion of Barack Obama, and that number didn’t change following the debate.
It was pretty much a similar story for Mitt Romney, whose favorable rating among debate watchers edged up just two points, from 54% before the debate to 56% after the debate.
The economy dominated the first debate and according to the poll, and by a 55%-43% margin, debate watchers said that Mitt Romney rather than Barack Obama would better handle the economy. On the issue of taxes, which kicked off the debate, Mitt Romney had a 53%-44% edge over Barack Obama. And by a 52%-47% margin, debate watchers said Mitt Romney would better handle health care, and he had the edge on the budget deficit by a 57%-41% margin.
Debate watchers thought Mitt Romney was more aggressive. Fifty-three percent said Mitt Romney spent more time attacking his opponent. Only three in ten thought Barack Obama spent more time taking it to Mitt Romney. By a 58%-37% margin, debate watchers thought Mitt Romney appeared to be the stronger leader.
“Romney’s only Achilles heel may be the perception that he spent more time attacking his opponent than Obama, which may explain why two-thirds of debate-watchers said that Romney did the best job but only 46% said that he was more likeable than Obama,” says Keating Holland.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, with 430 adult Americans who watched the debate questioned by telephone. All interviews were conducted after the end of the debate. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 4.5%.