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Mitt Romney wins lackluster first presidential debate

It wasn’t much of a debate…

Mitt Romney.

Gov. Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season. Hands down. He was clearer. He was livelier. Heck, he was even funnier than President Barack Obama. He owned it. And he needed to. In one month, this nation heads to the voting booth. As of now, almost every major poll says Romney is running from behind. He needed to make an impact. He did. This performance alone won’t win him the election, but it does give him a fighting chance. The key for the Romney campaign now is keeping this momentum going through the next and final two presidential debates.

Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama was flat. He was wonky and nerdy. He spoke for four more minutes than Romney did. During that time, he didn’t hit any home runs. His performance won’t lose him the race, but it will probably tighten the race in some of the key swing states. The president can survive this performance if he is stronger in the final two debates. History shows us this. In 2004, George W. Bush lost the first debate, but still won the election.

Jim Lehrer.

Moderator Jim Lehrer was the night’s other big loser. He struggled to control the debate almost right from the start. The first question about the economy was supposed to last 15 minutes. It was much longer and got bogged down with excessive discussions about numbers. Lehrer never regained control and never interrupted President Obama. But, what’s interesting is Lehrer’s performance could actually hurt Romney. It was the talk on social media during the debate. Just like Clint Eastwood’s empty chair was the talk during the Republican Convention. Eastwood completely overshadowed Romney’s acceptance speech. Will Lehrer’s empty moderator chair do the same with his debate performance?

No bold ideas.

There’s no question America faces massive challenges in the near future. Neither candidate proposed big ideas to deal with them in the first debate. Let’s start with the national debt. It currently stands at over $16 trillion. This was a prominent question. There just wasn’t a prominent answer. On taxes it was the same ol’, same ol’. Neither Romney nor Obama proposed anything outside the box. The president wants to raise taxes on the top income earners. Romney wants to lower the rates but eliminate several deductions. That’s not bold. To top it all off, neither one of them had a bold education plan or a bold idea to deal with the massive increases in health care spending. Illegal immigration didn’t even come up.

Take-away lines.

Honestly, I only wrote down two great lines. Both came from Romney. The first when he was talking about cutting funding for PBS. He said, sorry Jim. ‘I like Big Bird. I like you too (referring to Jim Lehrer).’ The other line Romney used was towards the end of the debate. He said, ‘You’re entitled, Mr. President, as the president to your own airplane and your own house, but not to your own facts, I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.’ Obama will have to come up with his own zingers in the next two debates. That’s what gets remembered.

What’s next?

The second presidential debate is on Oct. 16. It will be a town hall format where audience members can ask the candidates questions. Former President Bill Clinton excelled during town hall debates. He looked people in the eye. He was personable. While George H.W. Bush looked bored and annoyed. Using Clinton’s skills could help both Romney and Obama. Romney is the one who could really benefit because he is often seen as out of touch. But, he has the advantage now. He should use that in two weeks. The president will have to focus on fighting off the Romney surge.

Rob Hunter is a part of the Bruce St. James Show and co-hosts Rob & Mark, Saturdays from 12p-3p here on News/Talk 92.3 KTAR.