Stu Bykofsky: How I knew that Mitt won

Mitt Romney had a lot to be giggly about (President Obama isn't that funny) after their debate, which consensus gave to the challenger, at the University of Denver on Wednesday.
Mitt Romney had a lot to be giggly about (President Obama isn't that funny) after their debate, which consensus gave to the challenger, at the University of Denver on Wednesday. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: October 05, 2012

AFTER 90 MINUTES of a substantive and civil debate, I felt that Mitt Romney won by a bit.

I was wrong - he won by a lot - but I didn't know that until I played back the post-debate analysis on MSNBC. I figured its partisans would be digging Mitt Romney's grave.

Instead, they were in hysteria mode with a couple of them pounding Obama harder than Romney had. Others seemed stunned, as if they had survived a suicide bombing. The panel was made up of MSNBC political hosts, plus GOP strategist Steve Schultz, the token Republican bald guy.

I watched the first 30 minutes of analysis on MSNBC, Fox and CNN and here's what they said:

Obama was "off his game," cried MSNBC's Ed Schultz, while Chris Matthews screamed, "I don't know what was going on out there." Al Sharpton and Chris Hayes - unable to generate a positive word about Obama - went to the default of skewering Romney for "lies." When erudite and super-smug Lawrence O'Donnell declined to say who won, you know his guy lost. Team Leader Rachel Maddow decided to blame the ref by belittling PBS moderator Jim Lehrer, saying that "he got rolled by Romney."

Matthews regularly scalds Republicans for questioning Obama's nationality, while he repeatedly calls Romney "robotic" and questions whether he is even "a person." No R2D2 talk Wednesday night.

At political opposite Fox, it was a no-gloat zone. The show was led by hosts Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier who were even-handed, but tilted in Romney's favor, which was what everyone did all over the dial Wednesday night.

Brit Hume said Romney demonstrated a "pleasant demeanor" and great knowledge of the issues, while Obama lacked "spark." Democratic strategist Joe Trippi said that Romney "didn't back down," "didn't cross the line" of respect for the president, who looked "sour."

Host Greta Van Susteren didn't directly comment but reported that Bill Maher, who gave $1 million to Obama's campaign, ridiculed the president on the electronic graffiti of Twitter. Hard-right analyst Pat Buchanan found that Romney was "outstanding" and "aggressive but friendly." Fox host Chris Wallace thought that Romney was "comfortable," while Obama was "nervous, ill at ease."

Another conservative, columnist Charles Krauthammer, said that Romney won "by two touchdowns" and while it "doesn't change the game, it does change the momentum."

CNN had the largest panel - too large, I thought - and the best balance, but waiting to hear praise for Obama there, too, was like waiting for Godot.

Hosts Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Candy Crowley didn't put out their own opinions.

Journalist John King found the president "rusty," GOP strategist Alex Castellanos said that the president "was almost condescending," while Democratic operator James Carville swallowed hard and opined that it looked as if "Obama didn't want to be there."

Former presidential adviser (both Republican and Democratic) David Gergen pronounced Romney the winner and said that "we have a horse race." After midnight, CNN released a poll showing that 67 percent thought Romney had won the debate, while only 25 percent picked Obama.

I think Gergen is right, and so was Chris Christie when on Sunday he predicted a Romney win.

Losers? Pundits who predicted zingers along the lines of Romney's muddled "47 percent of Americans" and Obama's ill-phrased "you didn't build that."

The pundits were wrong, but that doesn't stop them from predicting that the next presidential debate will be very different.

We'll see.

Contact Stu Bykofsky at or 215-854-5977. Join Stu on Facebook. For recent columns, go to

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