The three men on the red carpet – the two candidates at their pulpits, and the moderator Jim Lehrer sitting at his over-large desk – all seemed to have a different conception of what the debate should be like, as if they were each playing a different sport on the same field. Romney was playing American football, Obama cricket and Lehrer tiddlywinks.
Those who bemoan the lack of substance in modern politics can’t complain about this debate.
Figures flew past at a dizzying speed. But the details are complex, and to follow the argument you would not only have to have an extremely good grasp of the various subjects, from taxation to bank regulation, but an excellent memory as well. It might have been ennobling but I am not sure how enlightening it will have been to the average voter.
Republicans certainly feel that they have used the debate to shift the perception of their candidate”
But as theatre, a battle of image and confidence, Mitt Romney was the clear winner. He had obviously practised so hard and so long that he was nearly hoarse. But not quite. Instead his voice was a touch deeper. No bad thing.
He looked Mr 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 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.