A setback, perhaps a useful one
1) Debates rarely move the needle much in the over-all race. That will be especially true in a highly polarized electorate like this, where there are relatively few undecided or easily-swayable voters left.
2) There are two more debates to go (three counting the VP debate), and now Obama and his team know they need to do better.
3) Romney's performance was based on the same thing his whole campaign has been based on -- lies. The public already mistrusts him, and Obama now has a new array of lie-vs.-fact contrasts to exploit in ads.
4) The factors which have lately been moving the needle our way, such as the 47% speech, were obviously not uppermost in the minds of snap-poll respondents just after watching the debate -- but they will continue to work.
This analysis comes close to my own view of things. It will take a few days to see whether the national or swing-state head-to-head polls have been moved at all, and if so, whether it will last. Until then, there's no grounds for panic. We've gotten used to seeing Romney floundering, so much so that it's almost a shock to see him do well at anything, but the man couldn't have gotten where he is if he were totally inept. If anything, this setback could even serve as a useful antidote to the complacency that risked setting in as we watched Obama's poll leads widen over the last couple of weeks. Complacency can be even more dangerous than panic in discouraging effort. We need to remember both that we're in a real fight and that we're most likely to win -- if we all do what we can for it.
[Image at top found via Mashable.]