5 Key Takeaways from the Denver Debate


After congratulating Obama on his 20th wedding anniversary, which is tonight, he even made a funny joke, a rare occurrence for him in public.

"I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here -- here with me," he told the president.

That's a far cry from betting Rick Perry $10,000 on national TV.

3. Jim Lehrer: "Let's go through some specifics"

If you were looking for an epic clash of personalities, or even "zingers," this debate wasn't for you. The debate centered around policies concerning pocketbook issues.

While voters and members of the media have long clamored for a serious debate on the economic issues, the back-and-forth became dry at certain points and the candidates often struggled to effectively connect the policy debate to how it would effect people's lives.

The candidates avoided talking about pivotal campaign trail moments (or "gaffes") connected to the economy, such as Romney's "47 percent" comment.

The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta put it best in a tweet: "Am I at a Brookings seminar?"

4. What They Didn't Talk About

Voters received an in-depth discussion of policy issues related to the economy, but a raft of other domestic issues were completely absent from the debate.

The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner flagged housing, economic stimulus, and the debate over a grand bargain on debt-reduction as issues that got the short shrift.

But one issue was left completely untouched: immigration. Obama and Romney uttered the word "immigration" or "immigrant" zero times during the course of the 90-minute debate. Moderator Jim Lehrer never asked about it.

The subject has been hotly debated on the campaign trail, especially in lieu of Romney's decision not to deport immigrants granted deferred action by Obama if he is elected. And many have clamored for Romney to further explain his "permanent solution" for undocumented youth.

We didn't get that to hear that discussion tonight.

5. Obama to Jim Lehrer: "You've done a great job."

Social media did not agree with that assessment of the veteran PBS anchor and debate moderator Jim Lehrer.

While some praised the debate for its open format, Twitter was up in arms about Lehrer's inability to control the time limits of the debate and ask the candidates more specific questions.

A fake Twitter account was set up in the middle of the debate for the 78-year-old, @SilentJimLehrer, and it already has more than 8,000 followers.

Lehrer did struggle to enforce time limits and control the discussion, but tonight was a case study of how difficult it is to moderate a presidential debate, especially in the social media era where every moment is scrutinized publicly in real time.

If you need further proof that Twitter dominated discussion of the debate, this is what was being passed around by many users.


Romney acquitted himself well here in Denver, establishing himself as a formidable debate opponent to the president and giving himself a chance to shift the race. But at the end of the day Democrats and Republicans in the spin room agreed that one debate won't decide the outcome of the election.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), said Romney clearly won the debate, but added "this is a process, not a one-night deal."

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