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State of the race: Upset

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Each national newspaper has an editorial on last night's debate. The only one to pick a winner was the Wall Street Journal.

USA Today says both Romney and President Obama "avoided" the deficit: "All early indications, including a CNN spot poll and trends on social media, were that Romney had gotten the better of the incumbent during the rambling, detail-laden encounter. But what neither candidate delivered was an acknowledgment that the American economy is buffeted by multiple factors — rapid technological change, globalized labor markets, boom-and-bust business cycles, the European debt crisis, slowing growth in Asia — that are well beyond the reach of Washington."

The Wall Street Journal sees a new man in Romney: "The President seemed off his game overall, verbose as he often is but with his famous restraint seeming more diffident than cool as Mr. Romney bore in with details about his record. It's clear Mr. Obama isn't used to someone challenging the attack lines that he uses to describe Mr. Romney's various proposals on the stump. ...

"What worked for Mr. Romney on Wednesday was his confident demeanor and mastery of the policy detail, stitched together into a critique of the incumbent and clear explanation of the election stakes. Undecided voters saw a different challenger than they've been reading about, or seeing on TV, and the race is finally on."

Washington Post bemoans lack of 'zingers': "One of the surprises of the evening was the number that remained unmentioned: 47 percent. Mr. Romney’s dismissive comments about Americans who pay no income taxes did not come up, either in questions from moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS or in jabs from the president. Indeed, for all the foreshadowing of zingers, such jabbing was, mercifully, largely absent. Mr. Obama, slightly ahead in the polls, was more policy professor than point-scorer. Mr. Romney, who needed more from the debate, talked at a somewhat higher elevation but also steered clear of personal attacks."

New York Times hammers away at Romney's everything: "Virtually every time Mr. Romney spoke, he misrepresented the platform on which he and Paul Ryan are actually running. The most prominent example, taking up the first half-hour of the debate, was on taxes. Mr. Romney claimed, against considerable evidence, that he had no intention of cutting taxes on the rich or enacting a tax cut that would increase the deficit. ...

"There are still two more presidential debates, and Mr. Obama has the facts on his side to expose the hollowness of his opponent. But first he has to decide to use them aggressively."

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