The pundits have been saying for weeks that Mitt Romney had to win the first presidential debate to have a good shot at winning the election, and he did. Yahoo! Finance reached out to top market strategists and economists to give their immediate reaction to Wednesday's debate. Their comments ranged from the color of the candidates' ties to whether the candidates forcefully made their case to the small percentage of undecided voters. (Excerpts from their responses are below).
The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task attended the debate at the University of Denver and asked CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood if Romney lived up to the debate pressure.
"Romney needed to come out and be aggressive but also respectful of the president and I think he met that challenge," says Harwood.
Romney hammered Obama on his economic, health care, energy policies and tax policies.
"He confronted the president directly," Harwood says, and Romney's decision to call out the president on his failure to reduce the deficit was Romney's "strongest moment of the debate."
Romney repeated his claim that the president's $716 billion cut from Medicare would reduce benefits for recipients, which the president and factcheckers have refuted. The former Massachusetts Governor also said the $90 billion the administration has spent on green energy projects was a waste of money.
The debate was notable for what Romney said and Obama did not.
The president didn't talk about the administration's bailout of the auto industry, which has helped Obama appeal to voters in Ohio, a key battleground state. President Obama also didn't discuss Romney's record at Bain Capital or the infamous secret tape of Romney telling supporters he's not concerned with the 47% of voters who are dependent on government programs and support Obama.
Related: Are 47% of Americans Govt. Moochers?
That missed opportunity "was an example of the president not being at his most aggressive," says Harwood.
Romney said his plan to cut income taxes 20% across the board would not add to the deficit and refuted Obama's response that it would increase the deficit by $5 trillion, referring to a finding from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Romney said he would reduce deductions and credits to cover that revenue loss.
A CNN initial poll today had Romney winning the debate 67% to 25% for Obama.
"The question going forward," says Harwood "is whether president Obama decides to be more aggressive going against Romney and whether he can push Romney off his game the way Mitt Romney seemed to push the president off his game last night."
Here are the comments from some top market strategists and economists:
Ian Bremmer, President, Eurasia Group
Do debates matter? We'll find out soon because Obama has been winning the election, but Romney clearly won the first debate. Is anyone who will actually vote still persuadable?
Romney successfully combined warmth and urgency. Obama began way too cool by half. His details swallowed his message. Obama sometimes looked annoyed and unhappy, while Romney looked to be having the time of his life.
No major stumbles by either side and Obama got warmed up about halfway through. But Romney was ready for a debate, and Obama was not. The debate played to Romney's strength. No abortion, no evolution, no gay marriage, no fist-shaking conservative talking points. Just economics, health care, and the role of government.
Romney was much better at channeling Ronald Reagan than Obama was at channeling Bill Clinton. Let the fact-checking and spin begin. It's 13 days until the town hall debate....
Jeff Kleintop, Chief Market Strategist, LPL Financial
No particularly tough China talk may mean less risk of trade protectionism and may be a plus for U.S. retailers & U.S. exporters.
On health care, a strong showing by Romney may help HMOs. But diagnostic labs, generics & hospitals may benefit if Obama prevails.
Forget the polls & pundits, let the market decide who won. If HMOs, big banks, & oil stocks outperform tomorrow, Romney delivered.
Mark Luschini, Chief Investment Strategist, Janney Montgomery Scott
Political version of a Yankees/Red Sox game with good punch-counter punch but both holding their own. Mr. Romney seems quite comfortable and President Obama is not wavering. Obvious angles that don't require much teasing to differentiate.
I'm pleased that the focus is on domestic issues because this has to be at the heart of the concerns of the 14.7% that are underemployed.
Both candidates accepted little interruption from Jim Lehrer. But they both did a good job of staying on topic.
Each candidate has been good at correcting each other when one seemingly painted outside the lines. Mr. Romney has seemingly been a little more aggressive and President Obama was quick witted when he scolded - kiddingly - Jim Lehrer for using what was supposed to be his last five seconds by interrupting him costing five seconds.
Both are articulate and knowledgeable on the subjects. There was very little pause and little struggling for fact or information.
I think both candidates offered enough contrast well enough for viewers to make a choice.
Dean Baker, Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research
President Obama is paying a price for never having bothered to tell the public the truth about the nature of the downturn. We have a weak economy because the housing bubble collapsed. The collapse cost us $700 billion in annual construction demand and $500 billion in annual consumption demand, for a total shortfall in private sector demand of $1.2 trillion.
The private sector will not replace this demand just because we want them to -- it doesn't make any sense. In the short term there is no point but to have the government fill this huge demand gap through budget deficits. In the longer term we can hope to replace the demand with higher net exports, but that will take time.
This is inescapable arithmetic. The fact that almost no one understands these basic facts, including many of the reporters covering the campaign, is largely President Obama's fault since he has not explained them to the public. This failure will now make his re-election path considerably more difficult.
Josh Brown, Blogger, The Reformed Broker
My reaction is that we may finally have a race after all. The most interesting comments to come from Mitt Romney Wednesday night were the ones concerning Too Big To Fail. It was exciting to hear him make the nuanced argument that the banking industry is not monolithic, and that certain parts of Dodd-Frank favor the systemic six banks and make it harder for regional banks and community thrifts to compete. I thought Obama's silence about the shady way that health care was pushed through (the parliamentary trick we call reconciliation) was incredibly telling, almost as though he had nothing to say in his defense. Also, I thought the Bloods and Crips color scheme of their ties was highly apropos.
Bricklin Dwyer, Jeremy Lawson and Julia Coronado, BNP Paribas
The debate showed just how difficult it can be for an incumbent to defend their record when the economy is not particularly healthy. Back in 2008, Mr. Obama made hope and change the centerpiece of his campaign and laid the responsibility for the deteriorating economy squarely at the feet of the Republicans. But these arguments don't work since after four years in power unemployment is north of 8% and the country is struggling through its worst economic recovery since the Depression. Throughout the debate, Mr. Romney was on the front foot on the economy, while President Obama struggled to defend his record or exploit weaknesses in his opponent's arguments.
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