Roundtable: Obama's debate was a "wake-up call"

(CBS News) A roundtable of reporters and analysts on "Face the Nation" agreed that the first presidential debate served as a "wake-up call" for President Obama.

Michael Gerson, who advised President George W. Bush during his reelection campaign, said he is not completely surprised by the president's performance.

"I saw it myself in 2004," Gerson said, referring to Mr. Bush's debate against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. "He has not debated in four years. He knew all the facts, but he hasn't been sharpening the arguments.

"It was a wake-up call. I think he'll do better the next time, but I think it would hard to do worse," Gerson added.

As for Romney's performance, Gerson said he "punctured a stereotype."

Although Gerson said Romney "stopped losing this election" with his debate performance, he cautioned that Romney hasn't yet won the election. "There's still a lot of do."

John Fund, journalist for the National Review, said Romney "opened people's minds" and believes that "people will give him a second look."

When asked by host Bob Schieffer if Romney presented himself to be a more moderate candidate than his previous campaigning in primaries had made him out to be, Fund said that won't hurt him with the conservative base, because "his opponent is Barack Obama."

CBS News' political director John Dickerson said the Obama campaign is trying to frame Romney's debate as "a show" complete with "artifice and fakery," trying to make the argument that this gets to Romney's "central character."

The Romney campaign "acknowledged they had trouble with their own message, that they had been sort of chasing the shiny penny," CBS News' Norah O'Donnell said. "They feel like they've hit a reset button."

As for the upcoming vice-presidential debate on Thursday, Gerson said it's going to be "a preview" of the remaining presidential debates.

"Because of the way that Barack Obama failed by being too passive, Biden is going to have to be aggressive in this debate," Gerson said. "That's not an easy thing to calibrate."

Referring to remarks by David Axelrod and other Obama supporters who said Romney was being "dishonest" about his tax plan, Dickerson said, "You can say what Mitt Romney is offering is unrealistic, but that's different from saying he's dishonest."

Dickerson said Romney's own top economic adviser told him their tax plan had two goals: "One is deficit reduction and one is marginal rates. If it comes in conflict, the rates might not go down as much," Dickerson added.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for