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FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands after the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, in Denver. Both men relished the wonky talk, but Mitt Romney also showed the easy confidence a presidential contender needs _ and a bit of the salesman's dynamic presentation. Barack Obama sounded more like a long-winded professor a little annoyed he has to go over this stuff one more time for the slow students in the back. For viewers the lesson from both was clear: If they crave a real discussion of complicated issues _ not just zingers _ it means some tough going. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Who knew?

For starters, we never expected to see an exciting debate. Mitt Romney is known for being as interesting as a dead cactus, while President Barack Obama, without a teleprompter, generally appears as lost as one of our kids when they lose their sippy cup.

We actually found this debate spirited, informative and, at times, captivating. This is one of the first debates we've seen in a long time that had some semblance of an actual debate among grownups. We got to see two men look into each other's eyes and voice their views and differences. So, let's look at how the players did.

Jim Lehrer

Leher is taking a lot of heat for his inability to control the debate and the candidates, though this couldn't be further from the truth. Leher turned the standard boring question and answer session into an actual discussion between the candidate's about their perception of themselves and each other.

Leher let the teams play without calling ticky-tack fouls. As parents, we sometimes let our kid's scuffles work themselves out without smothering them and getting too involved. That's when the best solutions are usually reached.

Highlight: Though Romney said he would cut funding to PBS if elected, he acted like a big boy and didn't press the governor.

Lowlight: He looked like he just walked off the set to the remake of the "Thriller" video. He may have died two years ago, but no one bothered to tell him.

President Barack Obama

It seemed that Obama came to Denver riding a wave of confidence knowing he was up in the polls. Unfortunately, Romney's confidence and knowledge of the issues brought that wave crashing down on the president.

It also appeared that Obama was pining to the "Uninformed Voter." He operates under the assumption, which may be true, that if you keep repeating the same point over and over, regardless of the facts, uninformed voters will buy what he's selling.

Highlight: Though most pundits believed he would lose his signature cool when confronted, he never did.

Lowlight: He may have just realized that talking points never stand up to facts. He said that Social Security is structurally sound. Really? By who's math?

Gov. Mitt Romney

Romney exceeded his own supporter's expectations. He came prepared about the issues and ready to play on offense. It was like watching Ward Cleaver showing up to the dinner table to talk to his ideological son (Wally or Beaver) and prepare him for his first year at a liberal college.

Romney showed that he wouldn't back down when challenged and showed America that he isn't the evil man seen in campaign attack ads.

Highlight: He continued to look Obama straight in the eyes and came after him with supporting facts and figures. He displayed his knowledge and understating of business and how they help America grow and balance the budget.

Lowlight: Though he used facts and figures to go on the offensive, he failed to use them to outline and detail his plans for America if elected.

Lastly, let's not forget the crowd. They showed restraint by staying out of the picture and letting TV viewers form their own opinions without their audience distractions.

Final Score

Though the president didn't hurt himself, the clear winner was Romney.

The clear loser? Big Bird.

Mike Russell/Michael Weinstein, Hosts, Mike & Winey Show

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