President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took to the stage at the University of Denver in the swing state of Colorado Wednesday night for the first of three presidential debates.
Although both campaigns had sought to lower expectations with the Romney campaign saying their candidate had trouble sleeping the night before and the Obama campaign saying the president had not been able to take much time out of governing to prepare, at the end of the 90-minute debate the winner was clear.
Romney dominated the stage and immediately went on the offensive, leaving a befuddled Obama to appear annoyed and caught off guard. Although some Obama supporters attempted to defend their candidate, many who agree with the president labeled his performance a disaster.
With a split screen throughout the debate, Romney often looked directly at the president as he tore into Obama's record. Instead of staring back at Romney, Obama often looked down, apparently scribbling notes. He did little to defend his record in his responses.
To some, Obama appeared timid; to others, disinterested or annoyed. Pundits on CNN speculated that it appeared no one had talked to Obama in four years the way Romney did, which left the president taken aback.
Key LGBT issues like marriage equality and an employment nondiscrimination act never came up.
Taking to Twitter, gay conservative blogger and Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan blasted Obama's performance repeatedly, describing the president as "stuttering, wonkish, ineffective."
"This is a rolling calamity for Obama,” Sullivan added. "He's boring, abstract, and less human-seeming than Romney!"
It was a sentiment echoed elsewhere as the Obama that dominated debates four years ago against Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who often appeared visibly indignant and irritated, appeared to switch roles with Obama.
"This is what happens when u pick John Kerry as your debate coach," tweeted liberal filmmaker Michael Moore.
Added Dan Savage, "Obama thinks this was a terrific debate. So, yeah. That makes one Democrat who thought this was a terrific debate."
According to PeopleBrowsr, a social media analysis company, more than 47,000 Tweets declared Romney the winner last night. About 29,000 declared Obama the winner.
On MSNBC, Chris Matthews also slammed Obama's performance. "What was Romney doing? He was winning," an exacerbated Matthews declared.
Debate moderator and PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer also faced criticism for losing control of the debate at various points.
Although the debate centered around domestic issues, none of the key issues LGBT advocates were listening for came up during the debate, which centered almost exclusively on taxes, jobs and the size of the federal government. In particular, neither candidate mentioned marriage equality, which Obama supports and Romney opposes, or a federal employment non-discrimination act, which Obama supports and Romney opposes.
Only at the end of the debate did Obama briefly mention the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as one of his administration's bipartisan accomplishments.
Romney's strong performance and the failure to mention divisive social issues like Romney's opposition to marriage equality and civil unions left gay conservatives much to be happy about.
"Tonight was a very good night for Mitt Romney, a very bad night for Barack Obama, and a very good night for those Americans hungry for a new President and a new direction," said GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia in a statement. "Governor Romney offered a clear contrast to the failed policies of the last four years. While Governor Romney offered a new direction, President Obama couldn't defend his record and offered little in the way of a vision for the future."
LaSalvia also labeled the debate a game-changer. GOProud endorsed Romney earlier this summer after he clinched the nomination.
Although Log Cabin Republicans have yet to announce if they will endorse Romney's candidacy, LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper indicated that he was pleased with Romney's performance.
"One thing came through loud and clear tonight, and we hope our fellow Republicans take note: in a domestic debate without divisive and distracting social issues, conservative ideas resonate, moderates and independents listen, and the Republican wins," Cooper said in a statement.
Not long after the debate the Obama campaign sent out a fundraising email signed by the president.
"I hope I made you proud out there explaining the vision we share for this country," it read. With 32 days to go before election day, the general consensus among Obama supporters was there was little to be proud of during last night's debate and much to be worried about.
Romney will now be tasked with maintaining the momentum he achieved last night on the campaign trail as the Obama campaign regroups for the next debate. Obama and Romney will face off again during a town hall debate on Oct. 16.