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September 24, 2017

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Strong debate showing puts Romney back in election race: US media

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's strong showing in the first debate has recharged his campaign and ignited a presidential race that had seemed all but won by President Barack Obama, U.S. commentators said Thursday.

Morning editorials were almost unanimous in saying that an energized and aggressive Romney had gotten the best of a tired-looking Obama on Wednesday, potentially tightening the race five weeks before the Nov. 6 vote.

"Barring revelations by the Obama campaign that Mitt Romney has an identical twin, whoever that guy representing the GOP ticket was in Denver has just given the United States a real presidential election. At last," the conservative Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger wrote.

"We may all wonder why he waited until now to liberate the real Mitt, but five weeks from election day, that question is beside the point and behind us."

Conservative columnist William Kristol of the Weekly Standard went further, saying Romney had "stood and delivered the best debate performance by a Republican presidential candidate in more than two decades."

The more centrist Washington Post largely agreed, saying Romney had regained momentum after weeks of campaign missteps.

"Romney needed a strong performance after roughly a month of unrelenting bad news — and even worse polling in swing states. And, he got it," Chris Cillizza wrote on the newspaper's political blog "The Fix."

"Obama's debate performance seemed purposely restrained — striving for a workmanlike competence but achieving something well short of that."

Roger Simon of the Politico news website went further, writing that "President Obama looked like someone had slipped him an Ambien."

"It's not that Romney's performance was perfect or polished — it wasn't — it's just that Obama's was so mediocre."

Liberal commentators preferred to focus on Romney's alleged distortions, decrying what they saw as Obama's failure to fight back.

The left-leaning New York Times said the Romney of the debate "seemed to be fleeing from the one who won the Republican nomination on a hard-right platform of tax cuts, budget slashing and indifference to the suffering of those at the bottom of the economic ladder."

But it admitted that "Mr. Obama's competitive edge from 2008 clearly dulled, as he missed repeated opportunities to challenge Mr. Romney on his falsehoods and turnabouts."

Despite all the fanfare around presidential debates, the prime-time standoffs rarely have a major effect on elections, and Obama will have two more opportunities to take on Romney at debates later this month.

Ahead of Wednesday's debate Obama had a slight lead in national polls but was further ahead in the key battleground states that — because of the U.S. voting system — will likely decide the winner in November.

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