It was the most tweeted about political event of the year, and for once the insider tweets matched the television insta-polls: Mitt Romney was the decisive victor in the first presidential debate of this most contested and close of elections.
It was not so much that Romney was great, though he was smooth and personable, but that Obama was not. The president appeared snippy, his eyes flashing angrily during those infrequent moments when he looked at his opponent, his lips pursed and upturned when he looked down — which was often — as if he were trying to smile despite sucking on a particularly unpleasant hard candy. Republicans on Thursday morning were calling it a smirk, but it was more than that. There was, in the expression, a mixture of annoyance, impatience, and dislike. Either Obama couldn’t stand looking at Romney, or he decided it was a better debating tactic to not even deign to consider him and to address hapless moderator Jim Lehrer and the audience instead of his challenger. The dynamic was set early on: Romney looked at Obama, and Obama looked down or at the moderator. His words appeared equally downbeat.