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Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama smile at the end of their first 2012 U.S. presidential debate in Denver October 3, 2012.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POL
Prevent defenses suck.
So looking at the snap polls, it's clear that the president got spanked tonight. It's one thing to play prevent defense, which is what he was doing, and it was another to completely ignore Mitt Romney and let lie after lie stand unchallenged. It was another thing to refuse to defend Social Security.

If you've got 67 percent of viewers saying Romney won (per CNN's snap poll), that means a significant number of the president's supporters were unhappy with the president's performance. Just 25 percent gave Barack Obama the win. That's gotta change.

That said, was there anything in this debate that would change the dynamics of the race? Was anything tonight worse than Romney's Benghazi disaster, or his 47 percent video?

If debate victories led to electoral victories, we never would've had President George W. Bush. And we would've had a President Hillary Clinton. There was no gaffe that Republicans and the media can point to, no defining "moment" that will recast the race. What happened is that Romney looked livelier and more aggressive while Obama looked listless and disconnected. It certainly created a bad night for our side, but nothing lasting.

So what will happen moving forward? There will be aggressive fact checking, which may make a dent in Romney's win, but I'm not confident of that. Romney's favorabilities, if the snap polling is to be believed, will also improve. But nothing will knock Obama's down, and in fact, that CBS snap poll found that people found Obama more empathetic.

More on empathy: Poll shows 69% say Pres Obama cares about their needs and problems - up from 53% before debate.
@markknoller via web

We'll be watching the polling carefully over the coming days and weeks, obviously, for signs that the damage runs deeper. It wasn't a great night, but not a catastrophic one. The fundamentals still favor our team, by a longshot, and Team Blue has three more debates to turn things around (two presidential and one vice-presidential). But they will definitely need to make adjustments.

And part of those adjustments means looking like you're fighting for the job. People tend to like that.

8:51 PM PT: Incredible:

silver lining for Obama in post-debate poll: fave/unfave numbers for both candidates mostly unchanged.
@PeterHambyCNN via web
That's the same snap poll that shows Romney winning handily. So if he didn't fix his favorables with this debate, it means his victory was worth ZERO.

Let me be clear, the only thing that makes Romney viable is if people start liking him more. That's the only thing out of this gaffe-less debate that could impact the broader race. If it didn't happen (and we'll still wait on additional polling to confirm), then this debate will have as much relevance to this election as pretty much every other debate since the Reagan-Carter one.

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