There's no hiding from it, President Obama got whooped last night. The good news, pundits say, is that "the Champ" lost early, so to speak, and there's still plenty of time for him to regroup, recover, and return with a better game plan for round two. In fact, there are 12 days until the two candidates square off again in a town hall style meeting that will have them taking questions from undecided voters.
"I thought the President did fine, but I think a lot of Democrats wanted to see him pushing back a lot harder," says Karen Finney, an MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist, in the attached video. "The town hall debate is next, and I think that will be very interesting."
As Finney sees it, the President needs to do two things differently at the October 16 event on Long Island. "He just needs to be who he is, which is relatable; he understands, he's empathetic," she says, adding that Mr. Obama also needs to "keep hitting back with facts and information" and "hold Governor Romney a little more accountable."
Like most observers of the first debate, Finney says Mitt Romney "did what he needed to do," adding that the Republican challenger "seemed in control." But she also feels the incumbent had some strong moments of his own, particularly in the beginning and at the end of the 90-minute discussion.
On specific issues, such as the Dodd-Frank financial regulation, Finney says Romney's position keeps changing. "Early on he said he'd just throw out the whole thing; and then several months ago he said nobody is talking about repealing Dodd-Frank; and then last night he had sort of a third different answer. So the question is: of the three different answers, which one is it?"
For the record, Romney's main point on Dodd-Frank legislation was that regulation clearly is needed but that, in his opinion, certain parts of the law weren't well thought out — specifically, the "too big to fail banks," which he suggested got a "big kiss" from Washington at the expense of small, local lenders.
For a debate that most felt was highly technical, filled with Washington insider jargon, and often bordered on the wonkish, Finney would like to see even more facts from the President in round two, as well as fact-checking in order to challenge what she calls Mitt Romney's "gaps in rationale."
Whether that will have an impact on undecided voters remains to be seen. For now though, it's 1-0 Romney, and the stakes just went up for their rematch.