President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney participated in their first presidential debate Wednesday in Denver. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
It was a factoid-heavy 90 minutes that may have elevated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The Republican came armed with the bleak statistics of a mired nation.
"47 million on food stamps today, economic growth slower this year than last year and last year's slower than the year before," Romney said. "Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it with the American people, who are struggling today."
The president wielded the defense that Americans are better off than they were before.
"When I walked in to the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion dollar deficit greeting me," the president said. "And we know where it came from. Two wars that were paid for on a credit card, two tax cuts that were not paid for and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for. And then a massive economic crisis."
While there were no knockouts, the instant analysis is Romney exceeded expectations while the president didn't always engage his foe.
Romney pressed the president while staying cordial, wishing the Obamas a happy anniversary, for instance.
Observers noted that the president was more law professor than prosecutor. He never mentioned the infamous video in which Romney disparages 47 percent of the population. Nor did Obama seize on the fact that his signature health care law is rooted in a law Romney signed as Massachusetts governor.
"I just don't know how the president could have come into office facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare," Romney said.
"We did work on this, alongside working on jobs, because this is part of making sure that middle-class families are secure in this country," Obama said.
Romney may have alienated a key bloc of Big Bird fans. He said he'd slash Sesame Street's subsidy, although he did apologize to the feathered friend.
And while both slung more statistics than zingers, there were memorable put-downs.
"He's saying that his big bold idea is 'never mind,'" Obama said at one point.
"Mr. President, you're entitled to your own airplane and to your own house but not to your own facts," Romney said at one point.
The men will debate again Oct. 16 in a town hall meeting, followed by a third and final debate on Oct. 22. But the vice-presidential candidates meet next. Their debate takes place on Oct. 11.