The Big Conversation:
The drama paled in comparison to another political showdown in Texas this week, but Wednesday night's face-off between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama appears to have shaken up the presidential race.
The debate, which focused on domestic policy, featured the requisite discussion of job creation, tax policy and government spending. But the quarreling — at times centering on arcane figures and policy details — failed to elicit any quips or one-liners ripe for cable news replay.
Rather, Romney's focused, energetic delivery stood in stark contrast to the measured, at times halting performance from the president, who, as Politico notes, hasn't graced a debate stage in nearly 1,400 days. And viewers, according to instant polls conducted by CBS and CNN, seemed to agree.
As The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater put it: "In large part, Romney succeeded in giving voters a reason to reassess his candidacy with a brisk, detailed performance that clearly animated his aides — and seemed to put Obama’s surrogates on the defensive — in the spin session with media in the minutes after the debate."
Republicans — eager for good news after a month of relatively weak swing-state polling for their candidate and the surfacing of his "47 percent" remarks — hailed Romney's performance as, yes, a game-changer.
Matt Mackowiak, an Austin- and Washington-based GOP political consultant, told the Houston Chronicle: "Romney was on offense most of the night, holding Obama accountable for massive investments in green energy, the growing national debt and weak economic recovery. President Obama appeared confused, off his game, unsure and unprepared, failing to make one memorable statement. Obama never asked Romney to defend the Bain record, his decision to release only two years of tax returns or the '47 percent' comment."
Some Democrats, meanwhile, downplayed Romney's performance and the debate's significance. "Romney didn't particularly help himself because he didn't say anything that folks will remember two days from now and Obama didn't make any gaffes," San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who has served as an Obama surrogate in swing states after delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention last month, said on Twitter.
How the debate impacts the race won't be clear until polls are released. But as Larry Sabato, the editor of the Crystal Ball newsletter, writes: "History cautions us not to overstate the importance of any debate; if this one really does move the numbers in a significant way for Romney, it will be more exception than rule in the relatively short history of televised American presidential debates."
- The state of Texas on Wednesday reached an agreement with four voters who filed a suit claiming that their civil rights had been violated when they received letters from their county saying the state had reason to believe that they were dead. A hearing over the controversial dead-voter purge in question was scheduled for this week, but the plaintiffs agreed to drop the suit after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state would not remove voters from the rolls who didn't respond within the specified time frame. The purging of voters who are confirmed dead, however, was allowed to proceed.
- State Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, on Wednesday called for a criminal investigation of Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, his opponent in their heated race for Davis' Senate seat. Shelton, who has attacked Davis over her legal practice and list of government clients, sent a letter to the public integrity unit of the Travis County district attorney's office urging an investigation of "possible criminal activity" by Davis and the North Texas Tollway Authority, which contracts with Davis' law firm. Davis’ campaign in a statement called Shelton’s letter "clearly false" and an "absurd political stunt."
- U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Wednesday campaigned in North Dakota for U.S. Senate candidate Rick Berg, a Republican who faces a surprisingly strong challenge from Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the race to replace retiring Sen. Kent Conrad. "North Dakota is what it is because of strong women leadership. We understand we need to get our economy going again. Having women, like the senator, come, gets that focus," Berg said.
"One guy was presidential, focused, passionate and funny. The other guy was churlish, irritated and defensive. He was the guy with the blue tie." — Karl Rove, tweeting about the presidential debate
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