The post debate go-to analysis is unsurprisingly found at your Gormogons. I didn't watch, and so will rely on the Czar's writeup as being definitive. If you haven't read it, go and look at it now.
The Press is (surprisingly to me) seemingly unanimous that Obama's performance in the debate was terrible, and people are scratching their heads as to why. The reason is that Obama is in a trap of his own making. Consider:
The Obama campaign up until this point has focused on the textbook Alinsky personalize-and-freeze strategy. Romney gave some woman cancer. Romney ties dogs to car roofs. Romney is coming for your ladyparts. This has all been 100% focused on the Democratic base, to keep them fired up. If the base does not turn out for Obama in numbers similar to 2008, he is in very deep trouble indeed. The polls, as a matter of fact, all use a Democratic turnout similar to 2008 in their models, and the polls are reporting that the race is very close. If Obama doesn't fire up his base, he's toast. Thus, the campaign to date.
But the dilemma is that it was independents (and we must admit some "Obama Republicans") who gave Obama his margin of victory in 2008. Whether it was SWPLs making themselves feel good voting for the Black Guy or because they listened to his soaring Home and Change rhetoric rather than the Jeremiah Wright class war fire and brimstone, if Obama doesn't get those people turning out in similar numbers, he's in deep trouble.
Remember, the Republicans are fired up this year (unlike 2008), and so Obama's 52% victory starts likely at even - assuming he keeps both his base and the independents.
And there's the dilemma. What fires up the base is the class war fire and brimstone. What will pull in the independents is the persona he projected in 2008 - post-racial, bipartisan, and agent of competence and change.
Obama's choice? Pick one of those.
Last night, he appears to have picked the echo of his 2008 persona, trying to conjure the remnants of the bipartisan figure that would pull in the independents. It appears (remember, I didn't watch the debate) that Romney mopped the floor with him on precisely this point, because Romney's record in Massachusetts is demonstrably bipartisan. Indeed, Obama's reported lack of energy is likely a combination of (a) a strategy to avoid going all fire and brimstone and (b) a realization that he was playing a very weak hand. Post debate polls seem to be showing independents breaking 2:1 for Romney.
Further evidence that he was not playing to his base is the astonished reaction by the Press, who quite frankly are his base this year. You can't listen to Chris Matthews without thinking that they were hoping for the fire and brimstone from their guy. Nobody every overestimated Matthews' intelligence.
Obama knew better, but he's trapped. Romney is plenty competent enough to let Obama get away with the HopenChange play, and plenty competent enough to keep from scaring the SWPLs. I've been saying repeatedly that Romney will win, and win big - this is probably the point in the campaign where the polls begin breaking decisively for Romney, and will not correct towards Obama. The independents who have been putting off making their choice will begin to decide now, and they will break strongly for Romney. If Obama dials up the class warfare to energize his increasingly demoralized base, he will simultaneously energize the Republican base to turn out and push independents more strongly to Romney.
Quite frankly, Obama has dropped below the power curve. I've been saying for a year or so that Mussolini could beat him this year, and it's playing out like a Kabuki dance. Scripted. The interesting question is how Obama will position himself for life after 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I'm not sure on that, but suspect that some weirdness that we are likely to see in the next month will be driven by that.