Just by virtue of the format, the second presidential debate was going to be different. The contrast was simply made clearer by a very different delivery from President Obama.
In that regard, the President was the clear winner last night: He calmed his liberal critics by calling out Governor Mitt Romney often and early, using effective tactics from the campaign trail that included a 47% reference that Governor Romney didn't get a chance to rebut.
Governor Romney had his moments too, most notably when he asked people to look back on the last four years and pointed to the President's promises and shortcomings. The moment the Romney campaign probably wishes it could "redo" is the Libya question. Governor Romney had hoped to seize upon what appears to be one of the biggest foreign policy blunders of the Obama administration. Instead, Romney drew a stern rebuke from the President, made worse when moderator Candy Crowley challenged the facts Governor Romney was using to undermine the President's credibility.
This morning, fact-checkers suggest Governor Romney wasn't completely inaccurate.
Even Crowley admitted in a post-debate interview that Romney "was right in the main, but he chose the wrong word." NBC News has learned Team Romney intends to re-litigate the Libya matter in the coming days and in the final presidential debate. But it's far from certain whether the campaign can reclaim what had been a position of strength.
Was last night a contest-modifier, as we say on NOW? Does it slow the momentum Governor Romney gained from his success in the first debate? We won't know for a few days, but we'll have some great educated guesses from the panel today as Alex hosts live from Los Angeles at 9a PT/12p ET. See you then.
Mark Leibovich, The New York Times (@markleibovich)
Kasie Hunt, The Associated Press (@kasie)
John Ridley, Screenwriter & Director
Sam Stein, The Huffington Post/msnbc Contributor (@samsteinhp)
James Lipton, Host, Bravo’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio”