• With: Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, Jason Riley, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Bret Stephens, Matthew Kaminski, Collin Levy

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," October 6, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the candidates face off in Colorado and Mitt Romney goes on offense. Is this the reboot that Republicans have been waiting for? And can Paul Ryan carry that momentum in next week's vice-presidential showdown.

    Plus, could it be a potential GOP pickup in true-blue New England? How Linda McMahon is making the Connecticut Senate race one to watch.

    And the Supreme Court is back and they're not shying away from more controversy. Wait until you see what they've got on the docket this term.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you are lowering the rates the way you describe, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It's math. It's arithmetic.

    MITT ROMNEY, R- FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions to create more jobs, because there's nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying more taxes. That's by far the most effective and efficient way to get this budget balanced.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    A big night in Denver on Wednesday, as President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney met for their first presidential debate. The candidates sparred, as you heard, over taxes and the deficit as well as health care, Wall Street reform and the role of government, with Mitt Romney taking some sharp shots at the president's record these past four years.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    ROMNEY: What we're seeing right now is, in my view, a trickle-down government approach which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams and it's not working the. Proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof one out of six people in poverty. the proof that we've got to 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that 50 percent of college graduates this year can't find work.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: There's little doubt Romney's commanding performance helped the GOP ticket. The question is, how much?

    Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger, editorial board member, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; and "Political Diary" editor, Jason Riley; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

    So, Dan, how important was this debate for Mitt Romney's candidacy?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: It was not only very important for Mitt Romney's candidacy, Paul, it was very important for us. I think he both rescued his candidacy. He rescued the election. And quite honestly, the election to this point was kind of boring. It was boring because both candidates in different ways were making it boring. The president -- and there have been reports to this extent -- was kind of coasting through, thinking he had no real competition from Mitt Romney. And Romney was out there basically expressing conservative platitudes without elaborating on them.

    We get to the debate, and what Mitt Romney does is answer the two things I think most voters were looking for, why do you think that Barack Obama's presidency failed, and what ways has he failed it. Secondly, now -- what alternative would you propose and how would they be better than what President Obama does? He did both of those things. He went right at the Obama record, something the president declined to talk about himself, and he went deep on his tax policy and his health policy. So he put some entirely new baseline for the election.

    GIGOT: Kim, there are a lot of Republicans that were willing to start writing off Mitt Romney if he didn't do well. I mean, there really were. And they were worried that his fundraising might fall off and there would be a big problem. So is there new momentum, new optimism on the Republican side?

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Yes. No worries about the fundraising dropping off now, I tell you that. I mean, you have not seen this much enthusiasm for Mitt Romney since he's ever run, going back to 2008. But I think because he went out there and talked about ideas. This is what the Republicans have been arguing he needed to do all along because you can't say it's a choice, you have to prove it's a choice. That's what he did in Denver.

    The most important thing he did, he explained the choices very clearly. He talked about things like growth versus tax hikes, about free- market health care versus Obama-care. That was the way he needed to explain it to the electorate.

    GIGOT: Yes.

    Jason?

    JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: It was a very substantive debate. He did layout some ideas and some plans, and that's a good thing. But I think these debates were also about more than substance. They're about demeanor, presentation. And what he managed to do is go up there on the stage, stand next to the president and look more presidential than the man himself. He did he that for 90 minutes and that made it --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: Looked him right in the eye, was respectful.

    I thought he was better on Obama's anniversary than Obama was.

    (LAUGHTER)

    What about this idea you hear from the left a lot now, which is, oh, well, the secret to Romney's success in the debate was that this was the moderate Romney. That he basically repudiated all of his campaign positions. This is, of course, what the Obama campaign is saying. Is that true?

    MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, I think they're annoyed at the fact he was able to challenge the president on things the president has claimed he's been saying. You know, the Democrats famously say that Republicans want polluted water and slave work -- sweatshops and all kinds of low wages for working people, and he was able to challenge those things directly to the president. And he never -- you know, it's not nice to use the word "liar" for your opponent in politics, but he was able to basically layout where what the president has been saying about him is not true.

    GIGOT: Let's show a clip of the president's frustration with some of Mitt Romney's answers.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    OBAMA: He says that he's going to close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan. That's how it's going to be paid for, but we don't know the details. He says that he's going to replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform, but we don't know exactly which ones. He won't tell us. He now says he's going to replace Obama-care and assure that all the good things in it are going to be in there, and you don't have to worry. And at some point, I think, the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all of these plans to replace secret because they're too good? Is it because that somehow middle class families are going to benefit too much from them?

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: Jason, the president have a point?

    RILEY: Well, Romney has not been as specific as some of us have been urging him to be, particularly on the tax issue.

    GIGOT: But he was very specific, I thought, on the tax issue.

    RILEY: He was specific in refuting Obama's characterization of his tax plan. I thought he did an excellent job of that. The president has been relying on a report that has been debunked, left and right, by people about how Romney wants to raise taxes --

    GIGOT: Raise taxes by $2000, yes.