First 2012 Presidential Debate: Did Mitt Romney Gain Ground?

The Obama campaign concedes that the Republican candidate seemed more polished and prepared.
3:00 | 10/04/12

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Transcript for First 2012 Presidential Debate: Did Mitt Romney Gain Ground?
"Your voice, your vote." Our power political team is covering all of the angles. Jake, even president obama's team is conceding that mitt romney gained ground last night. That's right, george. Obama campaign officials conceding that romney seems more polished. They say they expect he will get a bump in the polls. Some obama allies telling me that the president last night seemed tired and bored. President obama and governor romney. Reporter: It was a sweet start for the president, for what would end up something of a bitter pill. I just want to wish, sweetie, you, happy anniversary. And let you know, a year from now, we won't be celebrating it in front of 40 million people. I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine. Here with me. Reporter: And with that, former governor mitt romney began an aggressive prosecution of the last four years. Invoking vice president biden's own word for what happened to the middle class. Under the president's policies, middle-income americans are being buried. They're being crushed. Reporter: And attacking the president's health care bill. I don't know how he could spend his energy and passion fighting for obama care, instead of fighting for jobs for the american people. Reporter: The obama campaign felt good about moments when the president directly addressed voters, looking into the camera to assail what he described as romney's medicare plan for vouchers. If you're 54, 55, you might want to listen. This will affect you. Reporter: And faulting his challenger for being too vague in his plans to replace health care and wall street reform bill. Is the reason that governor romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they're too good? Is it because that somehow middle-class families are going to benefit too much from them? No. Reporter: The debate was moderated in a zen, low-key style we pbs's jim lehrer. When he included funding to be cut, he included lehrer's orrin programming. I like big bird. I like you, too. But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from china to pay for it. Reporter: It was a debate full of numbers and domestic policy details. If the tax plan he described were a tax plan I would support, absolutely not. I'm not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. Now, five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big, bold idea is, never mind. Reporter: George, up until last night, the obama campaign had succeeded in turning this from a referendum on president obama to a choice. And they were painting mitt romney as an unacceptable alternative. But that dynamic seemed to change last night. It seemed to be very much a referendum on president obama. And mitt romney presented himself as a credible alternat alternative. George? That's what mitt romney wanted. Let's get the view from the romney camp right now. David muir covers the romney campaign. And as we said, the polls giving mitt romney the win overnight. Clearly, the romney team is happy. How do they capitalize on it going forward? Reporter: I have to tell you, george, in talking with a key adviser overnight, one of the things I was struck by was he said our supporters are going to love this. You can't underestimate what he meant by that. The romney campaign has felt the heat from critics within their own party. The republican party, voices on conservative radio. There was ann romney saying, stop it. If you want to try it, get in the ring. All that is going to stop after last night. There was a sigh of relief in the party. And a celebration of what the governor accomplished on that stage. He put the president on his heels throughout the evening. Put him on the defensive, which is what fellow republicans wanted the governor to do last night. The governor travels to virginia, to florida, the key swing states where he can hopefully capitalize a statistical dead heat with the Let's get to our insiders

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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