Mitt Romney changes the game during Wednesday's presidential debate

By David Lightman

McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Governor Romney came to give a performance. He gave a good performance, and we give him credit for that," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said Thursday.

He defended the president's decision not to raise the incendiary issues he's used in his TV ads against Romney, saying they didn't come up in the questions.

"He made a choice last night to answer the questions that were asked," Axelrod said, "and to talk to the American people about what we need to do to move forward, not get into serial fact-checking with Governor Romney, which can be an exhausting, never-ending pursuit."

But any such logic Thursday was overwhelmed by the grim mood. After the debate, twice as many Romney surrogates appeared to talk to reporters. The Obama people left the scene quickly.

Two out of three people surveyed thought Romney did a better job, according to a CNN/ORC International poll. CBS polled uncommitted voters, and they gave Romney a 46-22 percent edge.

None of this means that Romney is about to surge. Democratic nominee Walter Mondale thought he had momentum after the first 1984 debate, when Reagan appeared vague and confused, raising questions about whether, at 73, he could still do the job. But Reagan recovered in the next debate two weeks later and went on to win 49 states.

Romney still has to show that he can connect with ordinary voters. Independent political analyst Charles Cook, who'd been critical of the Romney campaign, said Thursday that that connection "partially happened last night."

But on Thursday, it was Obama who was on the defensive.

"This was the first time the president really had to answer for his record," Romney senior strategist Stuart Stevens said.

Romney suddenly has momentum, and the race resets.

Ann Romney to host 'Good Morning America'

NEW YORK — Ann Romney is guest-hosting "Good Morning America" next Wednesday.

ABC says the wife of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will be on hand at the morning news program for its 8 a.m. (Eastern time) hour. Joining George Stephanopoulos at the anchor desk, Mrs. Romney will be filling in for co-anchor Robin Roberts, who is on extended medical leave.

ABC says it is in discussions with first lady Michelle Obama for a similar guest appearance when her schedule allows.

— Associated Press

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