Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at the Denver presidential debate
Mitt Romney won the first debate against Barack Obama just by showing up in a fighting mood against a lackluster incumbent.

In a debate weighed down by facts and figures and financial data,Romneywas faster on his feet than Obama.

The aura of invincibility that descends on every White House occupant was scraped off by Romney’s combative performance.

It was Obama’s first debate in four years and it showed. He seemed disengaged, not the fiery candidate who took the stage by storm four years ago against John McCain.

Beforehand 72 percent of Americans thought Obama would win, the typical numbers for an incumbent. So Romney did far better coming from a lower expectation base.

But while Romney won on style, Obamalanded some punches, especially when focused onRomney’s plan to cut $5 trillion in taxes.

“We have a horse race,” said David Gergen on CNN, the most seasoned of all political operatives who gave Romney the verdict on a night that may have changed the course of the race for the White House.

Even James Carville, the attack dog Democrat, had little good to say about Obama’s performance, saying he gave the impression he did not want to be there.

“The president did not bring his “A” game," said Carville
Obamawas somehow subdued, his best moments were in his closing remarks when he finally felt and looked passionate when asking the American people for four more years.

At the same time, the two were reminiscent of two fighters clutching each other in the center of the ring without landing any punches for very long periods.

In the end, there was no knockdown, no moment like when Ronald Reagan flooredJimmy Carter, or Lloyd Bentsen when he decked Dan Quayle with his “You’re no Jack Kennedy” line.

All of which means thatRomney will pick up some momentum making this a closer race than the pundits were predicting just a few weeks ago.

Read more: IrishCentral's up-to-date stories on the US presidential election 2012 here