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The POTUS fights back and body language tells us who the winner was… Issue terrain matters… Libya rattles Romney… They really, really don’t like each other… The crucial question: Were the past two weeks about Romney getting a second look, or were they about voters being disappointed in Obama?

Here are some highlights from last night debates.

Issue terrain matters:

If we learned anything last night, as well as in Denver, it’s that the issue terrain matters. While the first two questions last night — on a young college student’s job prospects and on gas prices — were right up Romney’s alley, many more of the following questions were tailor-made for Obama. Pay equality for women. Immigration. George W. Bush. And Obama used those questions, which didn’t surface two weeks ago, to draw his sharpest contrasts with Romney. In fact, a good chunk of the debate was an exercise in micro-targeting, particularly for the president. You saw both Obama and Romney making their pitches to female voters and Latinos, who happen to be two of the most important demographic groups in this election.

Libya rattles Romney:

Perhaps the sharpest exchange of the night was over Libya, a topic that has dogged the Obama administration over the past few weeks. Obama said, “The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror.” Romney later interjected, “I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.” Obama fired back, “Get the transcript.”

They really, really don’t like each other:

In fact, almost all of the exchanges drove this point home: These candidates really don’t like each other. The two men constantly interrupted each other; they circled each other like prizefighters in the boxing ring; and they also even got into each other’s faces. Overall, last night showed that both Obama and Romney are fighters, but they also demonstrated the worst stereotype of why so many people hate politics.

If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney controlled the terms of the debate two weeks ago in Denver, the opposite was true here last night. It was President Obama on offense for much of the night, and it was Romney playing defense.


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