Alright, let's get one thing out of the way: if "binders full of women" isn't a rap lyric within the next month, I'm going to be very disappointed.
That said, let's talk politics. Both candidates came out strong, and didn't let up. It never really got as heated as Biden-Ryan, but there were certainly tense moments as the two would occasionally jostle to have their voice heard on certain issues. But while Romney held his own, he wasn't able to capitalize when he needed to, and he continued to fail to articulate his own tax plan.
While Obama wasn't perfect, he came out focused, assertive and energetic. He didn't provide a solid picture of his policies going forward, but he did a successful job of defending his past term, outlining the philosophical differences in policy between him and the challenger, and articulating how detrimental Romney's policies would be should they be implemented.
The debate began in odd fashion, however, as Obama took to the defense of "clean coal" -- which, in case you hadn't already guessed, isn't a thing -- oil and natural gas, in addition to his usual renewable energy references. It was definitely an appeal to working class voters, but as Romney pointed out, it seemed disingenuous. Still, Romney wasn't able to effectively criticize Obama, and the president escaped relatively unscathed.
Obama was successful at tying Romney's proposed economic plan to the Bush-era policies that contributed to the recession. When Romney criticized Obama for allowing gas prices to rise during his administration and claimed he could lower them, Obama retorted that Romney could, as gas prices were artificially low previously because the nation was on the brink of a recession, and Romney's policies would bring about another one. Zing.
Another big moment came when a question was raised about income inequality regarding women. Romney then mentioned that when he was filling out his cabinet, he went through "binders full of women" searching for appropriate candidates. He forgot to mention that while he worked at Bain, he had no women partners. Romney dodged the question, while Obama provided a clear, legislative answer supporting income equality, citing the passing of the Lily Ledbetter income equality act.
Regarding illegal immigration, Romney claimed he favored "self-deportation." This is like saying you support banks regulating themselves. Then again, that's something Romney's critics -- like me -- would accuse him of attempting to actualize should he be elected. It was a unrealistic answer to a very real and complex issue and it cost him points.
Perhaps Romney's biggest miss, however, was the Benghazi question. When Obama was pressed by moderator Candy Crowley on how the State Department was responsible for the lack of securityand how his administration poorly handled the aftermath, he refused to give a concrete answer, although he did accept responsibility. Romney had an opening to criticize him, but perhaps fearful of the potential backlash that could result from criticizing the President for being careless with the lives of his subordinates, he abstained from any serious attacks. It was his last chance to swing the debate in his favor, and he passed on it.
Towards the end, Romney began to falter. He claimed he would support the assault weapons ban he championed in Massachusetts and later disavowed if he had bipartisan support from a legislature, giving credence to the impression that he is a man without convictions of his own. He dodged a question - in my opinion, one of the most pressing questions of the debate - about outsourcing, instead attempting to paint China as responsible for the situation, when it's evident that China has jobs that U.S. workers are no longer aspiring towards. Obama correctly pointed out that such jobs are not the concern, and that steps need to be taken to ensure corporations that outsource jobs suffer penalties for doing so as a means to curtail the practice.
This isn't to say Obama was perfect. He did a much better job of criticizing Romney and touting his own past accomplishments than he did at painting a picture of what the next four years of his Presidency may look like. For a man who's campaign motto is "Forward," he was looking backward all night. But that said, his points had merit. He had legislative history to stand on, while Romney's tax plan was still as substantial as the vaccuum Felix Baumgartner fell through just a few days ago. He made the necessary adjustments in this debate, and came away the victor.
With one debate win each, the candidates have only one matchup left before the election. The next one could, quite feasibly, determine who is elected president in November. If he can maintain the momentum from this debate -- as Romney unsuccessfully attempted to do tonight -- then Obama can look forward to another four years.