When I was in high school, I was on one of the debate teams my sophomore year. Our debate team had the distinctive honor of being the only debate team to ever beat the teacher's debate team.
Now, this was overseas at a DoD school where nearly every teacher was a full professor that also taught University of Maryland courses for the troops.
Why did we win? We all agreed ahead of time that we would just lie. Being the evil bastards that we were, we would cite a source, but then just make up whatever we wanted. Since the debate 'winner' was picked by popular vote and the cote of the other teams immediately after the debate, the other team didn't have time to go fact check everything.
This is what Romney did; the Gish Gallop. He said he didn't have a $5T tax cut, claimed he would cut every non-essential program like PBS but would expand education, said regulation was necessary but rejected every banking regulation without suggesting any, claimed Obama should have followed Simpson-Bowles even though he wouldn't have, and basically through every position under the bus if it made him look good at the moment.
Obama, meanwhile, sucked. He didn't call Romney on any of his lies - including the $700B "stolen" from Medicare. And neither did Jim Lehrer.
I thought Romney sound like Reagan, which made him sound presidential, at first. But the more he went on, the more he sounded like a guy trying to sell me a line of bullshit. Also, running over the moderator made him look like a bully; the illusion of presidentiality evaporated every time he did that. Still, since the audience (pundits included) react solely to emotion and not facts, Romney won, and deserves credit for a good performance.
The only outcome for me, personally, is that I lost an immense amount of respect for Jim Lehrer. Only once did he call Romney out on a logical fallacy, and he let him off after one go. It distresses me no end that there is no forum in which these two men have to answer to facts; at no point in this campaign will the penalty for telling a bald-faced lie on national TV be any more than a few articles in independent media or a couple of partisan ads. "Balance" requires that any charge of falseness against one party must always be accompanied by an equal charge against the other; to their credit, the Republicans have realized that as long as Democrats stick anywhere near the truth, the Republicans can just lie all the time.
Obama will still win the election; but America will have to wait for a full-throated defender of the radical notions that taxes must go up, government is a force for good, and science is truth.