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US reaction: Obama vs Romney presidential debate

Reaction to last night's presidential debate has swung in favour of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who appeared feisty and combative in contrast to a more measured (some would say weedy) Obama.

A New York Times editorial, however, focuses on the general uselessness of the contest as a guide to either man's intentions for power. "With few sparks and little clarity on the immense gulf that truly separates the two men and their policies, Wednesday’s encounter provided little guidance for voters still trying to understand the choice in next month’s election."

Much of the centre-left US media gloomily laments Romney's ability to score points at the cost of accuracy. "Virtually every time Mr. Romney spoke", says the NYT, "he misrepresented the platform on which he and Paul Ryan are actually running." The central point to draw ire was Romney's stance on tax - the former head of Bain Capital denying "against considerable evidence" that he would cut taxes on the rich.

Salon's editor at large Joan Walsh harrumphs: "Romney shook his Etch-a-Sketch and lied his way through the entire debate with no challenge from moderator Jim Lehrer."

But Washington Post columnist Matt Miller points out that, this morning, Republicans won't give a hoot about Romney's fact-checkability. He's "not trying to win a prize from pundits for coherence or consistency." What he did on stage was "win big" - and that's all that matters.

The more conservative Wall Street Journal is fulsome in its praise for Mitt: he appeared Presidential, "showed a superior command of fact and argument than the incumbent, and made a confident, optimistic case for change." The paper anoints his performance as the best by a Republican since Reagan in 1980, and adds "Where has this Romney guy been hiding?"

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