Voters and commentators alike were abuzz with predictions about whether President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would be declared the loser of the first 2012 presidential debate Wednesday evening in Denver.
But it appears that Jim Lehrer may be the real loser, as many observers say he did a bad job of moderating the discussion.
In fact he even referred during the debate to the possibility that he would be seen afterward as having been a shoddy arbiter:
"I don't anyone to say I've done a bad job," he said while trying to shift the conversation, after which Obama replied, generously, "You've done a great job, Jim."
Lehrer appeared to lose control of the debate at various points throught the evening, and he even had to let Obama and Romney know early on that he was in charge of deciding who talks when, telling Romney "that's how this works" in an attempt to take back the reins.
And he had an even more tense exchange with Obama.
"Two minutes is up sir," Lehrer told Obama as he was in the middle of making a point.
"I had five seconds before you interrupted me," Obama responded, drawing huge laughs from the crowd gathered to watch them speak.
The president then went on for at least 15 more seconds before wrapping up his remarks, after which Lehrer said, "Your five seconds went away a long time ago."
Granted, the debate between Obama and Romney was heated and intense throughout, and Lehrer had his hands full trying to moderate it, serving a role not dissimilar to that of the boxing referee charged with keeping Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield from killing each other.
But Jim Lehrer knew going into Wednesday's debate that it was going to be a slugfest, and many viewers appear to feel that he was not up to the task of keeping the debate going fairly and on topic.
In fact, so many people were discussing him -- many of whom were being highly critical -- that his name was a national trending topic on Twitter during the debate. And at one point even the term "Poor Jim" trended at one point during the evening.
A slew of Tweets and Facebook posts lambasting Lehrer and his handling of the debate poured out as it took place, and each had a different way of saying what Twitter user @HStGreatSt perhaps summed up most succinctly:
"Not yet clear who wins this debate, but Jim Lehrer is the clear loser," @HStGreatSt wrote in his Twitter post. "This is the least effective debate moderation I've ever seen."
Facebook user Justin Kunkel even compared Lehrer to some of the most-hated people in recent American history: the referees who were used by the NFL as stand-ins earlier this football season while the usual refs were striking.
"They should have the replacement refs moderate this," Kunkel wrote in his Facebook post.
The list of insults and critiques is extensive, but what is clear is that Jim Lehrer didn't shine in his big moment. As for Obama and Romney, well it's harder to say which of them was the winner. That's for American voters to decide next month at the polls.
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