Here are some of the first impressions from the Morning Joe crew on the third and final presidential debate, which was held Monday evening at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Mika Brzezinski: I thought Mitt Romney got through it. He looked pained at times, and I think the president was actually strategically very smart in terms of his approach.
Richard Haass, Council on Foreign Relations: The president came through as a strong, knowledgeable commander-in-chief obviously on top of the issues after struggling with them for four years. And for Mitt Romney, he had a different mission, which was to assure people that he could be commander-in-chief.
Joe Scarborough: The neoconservative in Mitt Romney was left somewhere on the campaign trail. This was more Mitt Romney the realist.
Scarborough: Most presidents want to look like they’re above the fray, [but] last night revealed something deeper I think about what the Obama campaign is seeing in their polling. They have got to take Romney down a few notches, right?
John Heilemann, New York Magazine: I actually thought this was the best of Obama’s three debates…I think Romney in the first half-hour of the debate seemed very tentative and very weak and nervous…He got better as the debate went on. Romney’s second half was much better than his first half…He hugged the president on substance over and over again.
Scarborough: You didn’t realize how uncomfortable Mitt Romney was with foreign policy until he started talking about domestic policy and he looked so confident. He looked like the Mitt Romney of Denver, and then they went back to foreign policy and there was a little sweat, there [were] nerves, his voice wasn’t in command—far different than when he was discussing domestic policy.
Mark Halperin, Time magazine: If [Romney] hadn’t righted himself after the first couple of answers, it would have been a disastrous debate for him. I don’t think there’s any doubt the president won in the room. He was stronger on almost every topic on foreign policy, and I think his knowledge not only of his own record and ability to talk about it fluently but of Mitt Romney’s record was really impressive. He knows a lot about what Mitt Romney’s said in the past. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that Mitt Romney in terms of inconsistency on foreign policy, in terms of not having a policy shop on foreign policy—anything like what a normal presidential candidate has—I think that was all on display.