Before we put the First Debate in the rearview mirror, I believe it's important to recognize just how Romney managed to put the President on his heels. In fact, you could probably accomplish the same thing if you are willing to abandon your previously stated principles. Of course, Mitt has an advantage here because he has carefully crafted a "principles-free" campaign and economic "plan".
The Debate Strategy is simple enough. You make yourself a "moving target" with evolving or changing positions. In a "real" debate, this would require conceding some points to the opposition, but under Romney Rules it works a little differently. Under Romney Rules, the goal is not to debate ideas or visions, it's all about theater and landing "virtual blows".
Romney has campaigned for a year on a "Tax Cut for Everyone". It was described as an "across the board" tax cut of 20% on marginal rates. Of course, the cost of this proposal has been estimated as high as $5 Trillion based on current revenue projections. But under the Romney Rules For Debate, there's no requirement to carry this policy forward into the debate, simply change the proposal in the blink of an eye! "Tax cuts? I've never proposed actual "cuts" because I'm eliminating loopholes!" I'm paraphrasing here, but that was as close Romney ever got to owning his own proposal. Suddenly, he became the Champion of the Middle Class and his new tax plan is nothing like that crazy talk the President is factually debating. There are absolutely no costs associated with the tax cut because more people will be working! While, the chicken has arrived well before the egg in this scenario, it's Romney's Rules and it's a free-for-all.
The President appeared to be holding back the temptation to blurt out, "You lying sack of arrogant sh*t" as much as he appeared to be genuinely stunned that Romney would choose to abandon any sense of decency and mislead the American Public at such a crucial moment in history. The goal posts had shifted, the new goal was as simple as this, "Do not be drawn into a pissing match". Granted, the President was disarming the "virtual cannon", but there's always tomorrow and two more debates.
In the meantime, let's recognize this pattern of "self-absorbed, entitled behavior". Romney doesn't abide by rules, he bends them in his favor and ONLY "his" favor.