Analysts will be debating the victor in Wednesday night's Presidential debate probably until at least the next week. However, if you were to name the winner based solely on the number of clever one-liners fired off at once, Romney would win in a landslide. The former Massachusetts Governor outpaced President Obama 13-7 all told over the debate, and unlike previous debates where Romney has seemed to be pre-scripted, the zingers here may strike viewers as spontaneous.
Romney opened on a lighthearted note, quipping that the Presidential debate was hardly the most "romantic" setting for the President's anniversary with Michelle Obama. This was, as it turned out, the zinger that would draw the least blood. His subsequent hits were all much harder.
While not, strictly speaking, a zinger, Romney's opening statement began with a very powerful question that he then used to catapult his statement forward and attempt to erase his image as an out-of-touch elitist.
"Can you help us?" Romney quoted a family asking him at a rally. "The answer is yes."
From there, Romney proceeded to lay down a series of quips that reinforced what many commentators later described as a very strong performance. He accused the President of practicing "trickle down government," an unusual reversal of the Democrats' usually derisive name for conservative economics, and suggested that under this President, Americans pay what he described as an "economy tax" because of how much income they lose.
Those who were worried that Romney wouldn't have good reactions to Obama's attacks also got a surprise. When Obama went after Romney's tax plan for being fiscally irresponsible, Romney fought back with a response that was at once belittling and folksy.
"I've got five boys," Romney said. "I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it."
And as for aggressive lines, Romney had plenty of those, too.
"I have a friend who said you don't pick winners and losers, you pick losers," Romney quipped during the segment on regulation.
"Try getting a mortgage these days," he remarked later.
But Romney's most brutal hit came near the end, when he hit Obama with a line seemingly tailor made to make the President seem out of touch. "You're entitled to your own airplane, and your own house, but not your own facts."
Obama, strangely, eschewed responding directly, instead arguing on a data-driven level. Romney seemed to shift closer to this approach roughly an hour into the debate, at which point the zingers stopped and the debate instead seemed to become a contest for which candidate could run over moderator Jim Lehrer with greater frequency.
Nevertheless, Obama did have one or two strong moments in the debate. He accused Romney of ignoring "math, common sense and our history," and of "putting seniors at the mercy of Obamacare." His strongest moment was when he used Romney's seeming lack of specificity on issues to raise a point about the GOP nominee's trustworthiness.
"Is it because his plans are just too good?" Obama quipped, implying that Romney has something to hide about his plans because they might be politically unpalatable.
But strong though this moment was, it was hardly enough to stop Romney's much more obvious preparation, and several post-debate polls confirm as much. CBS' post-debate poll had 46 percent of voters giving the debate to Romney, with 32 percent saying it was a tie, and only 22 percent saying the President won. CNN was less kind, with 67 percent saying Romney won (roughly the same percentage that expected Obama to win going into the debate), and 25 percent saying Obama won.
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