Romney's media afterglow

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama speak after the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Oct. 3, 2012.
AP Photo/Eric Gay

The results were in immediately after Wednesday's presidential debate ended: Romney was the clear "winner."

The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote glowingly, praising Romney for "appearing Presidential" with "a superior command of fact and argument." It even compared Romney's debate performance to former President Ronald Reagan.

The Journal editorial board's exuberant review is a shift in tone from recent scathing commentaries, criticizing Romney's convention speech as being "safe" and void of a convincing case to vote for him. They also criticized his campaign for "squandering a historic opportunity."

In Thursday's opinion, however, their praise was effusive, writing that "the race is finally on." They cautioned the Romney campaign against failing to meet the upcoming "challenge" that remain for the final five weeks of the campaign. They said the Romney campaign needs "to rise to the level of Wednesday's performance... in particular by improving its lackluster advertising that continues to traffic in general promises and platitudes. We'd also suggest a reworked stump speech."

Nate Silver of The New York Times' Five-Thirty-Eight blog, which analyzes polling and the race's potential electoral outcome, said "it seems likely" that Romney will make some gains in the polls.

"Mr. Romney may have done the equivalent of kick a field goal, perhaps not bringing the race to draw, but setting himself up in such a way that his comeback chances have improved by a material amount," Silver wrote.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who hosted a real-time analysis with 25 undecided voters, said on "CBS This Morning" that the analysis found "Mitt Romney did better than Barack Obama." Luntz added that Romney successfully brought wavering Republicans on board.

Even some liberal commentators tipped their hats to Romney and admonished President Obama.

Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast called Mr. Obama's debate appearance "a disaster," adding that his "wonkish lectures may have jolted a lot of independents into giving Romney a second look."

"Obama looked tired, even bored; he kept looking down; he had no crisp statements of passion or argument; he wasn't there," Sullivan wrote.

John Nichols of The Nation magazine asked, "What happened?" Answering the question himself, he said the president let Romney "remake himself."

So what does this all mean for the candidates moving forward?

CBS News' political director John Dickerson said on "CBS This Morning" that Romney calmed the fears of skittish donors.

"Romney doesn't have to deal with those money folks who he's been having to settle down," Dickerson said.

Meantime, the Los Angeles Times' James Rainey cautions against reading too much into the lasting consequences of the president's poor debate performance, suggesting there's a parallel between Wednesday's debate and the first debate in 2004.

Eight years ago, 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry benefitted from a lackluster performance by incumbent President George Bush.

"On that night in 2004, President Bush seemed so overwhelmed and out of sorts that it was easy to extrapolate again. How could someone so unsteady --so unready to the fight for his job -- win another four years in the White House?" Rainey wrote.

"[D]espite misgivings about his first term, and particularly public exhaustion with the long and costly war in Iraq, many Americans still personally liked Bush. They never entirely warmed to Kerry, and they wanted to give the president another chance," Rainey wrote.

"Bush lost the 90-minute, prime-time skirmish and won the war for reelection."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for