Obama edged this one, but I’d say it was a pretty low quality debate. The president’s performance would have done nothing to reassure voters who wanted to know more about what he’d do with four more years. He was eloquent but, at times, vacuous. Romney, for his part, started to ask questions of Obama directly. He ended up looking like a snapping lapdog – or a failing interviewer – when Obama declined to answer. A snap CNN poll calls it for Obama by 37-33, with 30pc thinking it was a draw. Gallup gave the first debate to Romney by a far bigger margin, 72-10 with 9pc undecided. So the early verdict is a decisive Romney win, followed by a marginal Obama win. People’s verdicts may be changed when they realise that the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, wrongly slapped down Romney on a point of fact over the Benghazi attack (which ought to have been Romney’s strongest point).

At least Barack Obama had come to fight this time. Here are his best lines:-

And here are Romney best lines:-

And yes, you’re right, neither were particularly impressive. Obama at least did what his fans had longed for him to do last time: go on the attack over Romney’s secret recording saying he was not interested in the 47pc of the electorate who were net drains on the taxpayer:-

Romney hit back on claims that he is launching a “war on women” – but in a way that certainly wouldn’t endear me if I were a woman. He blamed Obama for overseeing a net loss of 580,000 women’s jobs. But he then said he wanted to go out to look for women to serve on his Cabinet and that his team came back with “binders full of women”:-

This image captured the imagination of the social network and there’s now a tumblr site devoted to illustrating what Romney meant. Here’s my personal favourite:-
Romney misfired when he claimed that Obama did not immediately refer to the Libya attack as an “act of terror” – he actually did, and had to be corrected. Or so he thought. “Get the transcript” said Obama, and  moderator Candy Crowley seemed to correct Romney. ‘He [Obama] did in fact, sir.” Obama then said: ‘Can you say that a little louder, Candy?’ to laughter and applause from the audience. Here’s the video:-

Actually, Crowley called it wrong. What Obama actually said was “no acts of terror will ever shape the resolve of this great nation” – which is enough for Obama to duck Romney’s blow. But Obama didn’t, actually, say that America had just witnessed an act of terror. He referred to it a “senseless violence” and the White House still believed it the Benghazi attack was a protest in response to some film. Romney’s point was correct, but he fluffed it. Unsure of his facts, Romney accepted two wrong corrections: one from Obama and one from the moderator.

Crowley looked a little shaken afterwards, interviewed by her CNN colleagues. She rowed back a bit saying she remembered the t-word being used by Obama in the Rose Garden. But that wasn’t Romney’s point. “The president did call it – or refer to it in some way – as an act of terror” she said. Actually, he didn’t. “I was trying to bring some kind of clarity to the conversation,” she said. If that was her aim, she failed.

So how will all this affect the race? Not by much, if the CNN poll is anything to go by. I doubt it changed the monentum of the race: Romney’s achievement, to connect with voters in the first debate and break free of the caricature painted by the Democrats, has not been changed by last night. And the election will be decided by other questions, such as: what would Obama do with those four years? Is Romney really a joke?

CNN assembled a focus group in Columbus, Ohio (a state that may well decide the whole election). They scored it 40-17 for Obama, with 42pc saying no one won (there were just 35 members, so a very small sample). Fox News had a very different result from Frank Luntz, whose focus group reported a big switch towards Romney. Here’s the audio:-