In my debate preview, I said that I'm looking for a defining moment. A moment that stood out from the debate, that transcended all the usual talking points. Obama got that moment tonight. Romney had a chance to go on the offensive on Libya and completely fumbled, eventually getting flustered and getting caught in a lie on live TV by moderator Candy Crowley in one of the more damaging Presidential debate moments. Obama got to give an above-politics statement that juiced every bit of the Commander-in-Chief aura. It was a moment where he looked very strong, very patriotic, very Presidential, and very much above Romney in stature. It was a moment in which Obama connected in a way that he hasn't so far in this election and it made him look more authentic and full of conviction than he has since 2008. Romney became very flustered after being called out by Crowley and looked a bit defeated and very much like a politician trying to politicize.
The unfortunate thing for Romney is the Libya moment was all self-inflicted. He had an issue he could have hammered Obama over, and instead of keeping it focused on the larger point of Obama's handling of the issue, he narrowed it down to an argument over whether Obama did or didn't say a specific word. He lost that smaller argument when it was proven that Obama did use that word, and the image of being proven wrong on live TV like that relegated the rest of his argument to the closet as everyone focused on the inaccuracy of his loss on the smaller argument.
The moment is by far the most memorable of the first two debates, and I think it'll have a lasting impact because it reinforces two things: