Andrew Sullivan did an unscientific poll of his readers. The overwhelming majority went into the debate planning to vote for Obama, believe Obama lost decisively, and still plan to vote for him. Meanwhile, fact checking stories in the media are putting Romney’s campaign in an awkward position (is he really going to balance the budget by killing Big Bird?). There is much fodder that commercials and surrogates can put to good use.
What only Obama can fix, however, is the impression he left of weakness, the emerging sense of him as a “spent force.” That is devastating. Of course Reagan looked senile in his first debate with Mondale and W lost all three of his debates with Kerry in 2004 as decisively as Obama lost his last night, and they were both re-elected.
But I’m not one to take comfort from comparisons with Bush and Reagan.