Opening Act: Aaaaand

DENVER – After the debate hall closed down and the countless security gates were shipped back to minimum security prisons, I went back and checked how Barack Obama did in his first debate with John McCain. Was he markedly better, faster than he is in 2012?

The answer: Somewhat, yes. Barack Obama says “aaaaand” to connect ideas, which he runs together in long sentences. He did some of that in 2008; he did more last night. The bigger problem, as some of Romney’s more generous aides argued last night, is that defending policies that haven’t piloted the country under 8 percent unemployment is extremely hard to do, and Obama stuck to talking points as a way to avoid this. Make up your mind below.

McKay Coppins argues that Romney etch-a-sketched himself again, live in front of a studio audience, and it worked.

Romney’s onstage left-turn marked a sharp departure from the campaign calculus that was being articulated just last month. Then, two Romney advisers told BuzzFeed that they considered the contest “a base election” — a view that helped explained why the candidate was stumping with Pat Robertson and offering full-throated endorsements of conservative Iowa Rep. Steve King.

Charlie Piece is more severe.

What you saw, I think, anyway, was the end product of the president’s consuming naivete as regards the American political process, as well as the end product of thirty years of a Democratic Party that has slid so far to the center-right that a Democratic president found himself arguing with a “severely conservative” Republican candidate over the issues of how much the Democratic president had cut out of the budget, how many regulations he’d trimmed, how much more devoted to the middle-class-kick-in-the-balls Simpson-Bowles “plan” he is, and how he would “reform” Social Security and Medicare — and, frankly, a Democratic president losing some of those arguments to his left.

But the Obama campaign has settled on a post-debate story: Romney “won” by making stuff up. See, they can even demonstrate this with Steve Reich sound-a-like music.