Whatever the eventual outcome of the race, Romney seemed to have achieved his goal of a campaign reset. Democrats braced for tightening polls over the next several days in the states where the campaign will be won or lost.
The head of one Republican-aligned independent group said all such organizations should consider expanding into states that have effectively been written off. "If we didn't get a home run, we certainly got a triple" from Romney's showing in the debate, said American Future Fund's founder Nick Ryan, who sided with Rick Santorum during the primaries.
Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod acknowledged in a conference call with reporters that an adjustment in strategy would be needed in the debates to come. "Obviously moving forward we're going to take a hard look at this, and we're going to have to make some judgments as to where to draw the line in these debates and how to use our time," Axelrod said.
Romney frequently interrupted both Obama and moderator Jim Lehrer of the Public Broadcasting Service during the 90-minute debate, sometimes talking over one or both of them to argue that the president's policies hadn't restored the economy, or alternatively, that the president was making false accusations about Republican proposals.
While both men prepared extensively for their first head-to-head encounter, Romney had the advantage of having taken part in 19 debates with his Republican rivals over the course of many months. He seemed to employ many of the techniques that he honed then, insisting on speaking time he claimed he was entitled to, for example, generally without seeming belligerent.
The president's last prior debate was four years ago, when he was running against Sen. John McCain.