With a dash of audacity, Mitt Romney lent his campaign some much-needed energy with his performance in the first debate of the U.S. presidential race in Denver Wednesday night.

The morning after the debate, which focused on domestic issues, commentators appeared mostly unanimous in their declaration of Romney as the winner.

“The consensus seems to be that Romney won the debate,” said CTV’s Washington Bureau Chief Paul Workman. “He did very well. He was extremely well prepared, extremely well-rehearsed. He came out very aggressively… and just went after President Obama time and time again.”

By contrast Obama appeared aloof.

“Obama looked listless and as if he was trying to stay above the fray,” Workman told CTV’s Canada AM. “Democrats are disappointed this morning… he didn’t go after Romney on what some would say are some whoppers.” 

CTV political commentator Scott Reid said several of Obama’s omissions were glaring.

“There were some performance issues from Obama that weren’t just off, they were downright baffling,” Reid said.

He cited the fact Obama failed to mention a recent comment by Romney that 47 per cent of Americans live off the other half and see themselves as victims, a comment that has dogged his campaign.

By contrast, Reid said Romney appeared to be on his game.

“Mitt Romney, last night in the first five minutes, you knew he came to play. He took immediate control of the debate with his posture, his energy, the cogency of his message. It was a pretty persuasive performance and a pretty decisive victory for Mitt Romney.”

Still, Reid said Obama’s performance was not a total loss.

“There were clear elements of strategy,” Reid said. “He didn’t tangle with Gov. Romney, he didn’t look at Gov. Romney most of the time. He addressed himself to the camera.”

In any event, the debate may have served more as a boost in morale for the Republican campaign, lagging in the polls, than a game changer in the race to the White House.

“There are very few undecided voters out there who will probably make up their minds in the debate,” Workman said. “Historically that does not happen that a debate swings an election. But it certainly makes the Republicans feel better today.”

Wednesday’s debate was the first of several scheduled to take place over the next month. Obama and Romney will next meet onstage Oct. 16 in New York.

Online response

On social media, Romney drew the most attention with a comment he made about cutting subsidies to PBS.

“I’m sorry Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,” Romney said, addressing moderator and PBS personality Jim Lehrer. “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I like you. But I’m not going to keep borrowing money from China to pay for it.”

Reaction followed swiftly on Twitter to defend the beloved Sesame Street character. A new account called @BigBirdRomney sprang up overnight, garnering more than 8,000 followers in less than 12 hours.

“Obama will provide healthcare for talking birds. Mitt Romney wants to cut them. America, the choice is yours,” The user tweeted.

Another account called @FiredBigBird sprang up and generated over 25,000 followers in the same period.

Other Twitter users implored their followers to join a “Million MuppetMarch to save Big Bird.”