Thanks to President Obama's "U-turn," performance, Democrats "will be thrilled with the president's performance," Rachel Maddow said moments after tonight's debate, summing up the consensus from the msnbc panel.
Maddow also called it "the best debate of Barack Obama's career as a national politician."
The panel agreed President Obama bounced back from his passive, "too polite" approach of two weeks ago and delivered a much more aggressive, engaged performance.
Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz both said the biggest moment of the night came when Romney fumbled by claiming that Obama hadn't used the phrase "act of terror" when addressing the attack on U.S. ambassadors in Libya, which he had.
Matthews said it "punched [Romney] hard" when moderator Candy Crowley immediately pointed out the error and Obama simply told him to "get the transcript."
Even Steve Schmidt, a former John McCain adviser, agreed. "Romney's weakest moment was clearly on Libya," said Schmidt, "and I think the fact that he was wrong there ... undermined his veracity on other issues."
Some pundits feared he might overcompensate for the first debate, but Obama came cool and prepared. Chris Hayes noted, "Not only affirmative defense of the record was there tonight, but also the attacks on Mitt Romney."
Obama actively went after Romney on women's issues including pay equity and health care, immigration, the sketchy math behind his budget plan, and finally, the 47%. He painted Romney as an extremist, making even George W. Bush look tame in comparison.