Mr. Romney came in with the most to gain Wednesday night, trailing both in national polls and in most key swing states, and he also had lower expectations from voters about his performance.
He seemed to far outstrip those expectations Wednesday night, countering Obama with short, sharp answers and a focused smile that stood in contrast to Obama’s longer, more rambling answers and somewhat professorial demeanor.
A format that gave candidates more time – a full 15 minutes – to discuss a single question didn’t seem to help keep them from running over time.
Both Romney and Obama steamrolled over moderator Jim Lehrer’s occasional attempts to rein in their talking, and in the end, there were just 3 minutes left to discuss the final question, on partisanship in government.
The economy, as expected, dominated the debate, and so many numbers were lobbed in the first half of the debate that viewers might be excused for thinking they were in a math classroom or a budget committee briefing.
One number that surprisingly didn’t come up: the now-famous 47 percent figure, from Romney’s private talk to donors in which he disparaged the portion of the electorate that doesn’t pay federal income taxes.