Presidential Debate III was more like “Rocky” Round 16, an afterthought where neither boxer really lands a clean punch on the other and where the crowd has dozed off or gone to bed. Only in the land of MSNBC were sparks flying.

Famously tingly MSNBC host Chris Matthews decided the whole race came down to, well, race. In one of the more outlandish rants of an outlandish career, Matthews said the right hates Obama more than they want to destroy Al Qaeda, according to The Hill. The rant is too priceless to edit:

“I think they hate Obama. They want him out of the White House more than they want to destroy Al Qaeda. Their No. 1 enemy in the world right now, on the right, is their hatred, hatred for Obama. And we can go into that about the white working class in the South and looking at these numbers we're getting the last couple days about racial hatred in many cases … this isn't about being a better president, they want to get rid of this president,’ he said.”

Other than that bout of inanity/insanity, the night was pretty mellow. The sleepy debate was made even sleepier by longtime CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer, who brought his long questions and mellow tone to a viewing public already worn out by a 24-7 campaign.


The result was one where both sides get to claim victory and where few major points will jump from the transcript into the popular conversation. Obama scored with a bogus quip about bayonets, something our Marines still rely on. But he also had to fend off a lot of discussion about economics – something his lefty supporters took offense over.

The Huffington Post, a major prObama operation, criticized the economic focus and the moderator’s inability to change that. “Schieffer seemed to be unwilling or unable to move the conversation back to international issues for some minutes,” wrote HuffPo.

One key point that might haunt the president came about the issue of “sequestration,” where a compromise budget was OK’d that would gut defense spending. Obama, fending off repeated attacks on the issue finally responded. “First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”

White House senior adviser and 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe backed off that almost immediately after the debate. “No one thinks it should happen,” Politico reported him saying.

The CNN team summed up the debate in a few succinct ways, with anchor Wolf Blitzer calling it “much more civilized” and Chief National Correspondent John King saying the “president won on points.”

As CNN’s now-much-more-famous Candy Crowley put it, “the president came to rough up Mitt Romney.” GOP candidate Romney, on the other hand, “approached this like a physician: ‘first do no harm’”

Neither entirely failed or succeeded.

Two NBC staffers noted a key difference between the candidats. “Meet The Press” host David Gregory agreed with Crowley. “Romney seemed more interested in coming across as a sober and careful commander in chief than a bellicose alt to President,” he commented on Twitter.

NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd seemed surprised by Obama’s aggressive tone. “POTUS is consistently trying to draw Romney into a more contentious debate. It's what challengers do who think they are behind,” he wrote on Twitter.

Supporters on the right and the left saw what they wanted to see. Lefty MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter naturally felt even a peace-supporting Romney was bad. “By reversing his views on war and peace, Romney has raised a character issue about his ability to be trusted as a steadfast defender of U.S.,” he argued.

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, took the exactly opposite view. “Oh, the debate. Romney wants peace, trade, a growing economy, american strength. Obama wants to keep spending and running up debt,” he wrote.

Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center, credited the job Schieffer did. “Whatever his biases, and he has biases, Bob Schieffer didn't show them tonight. Unlike Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz, Schieffer managed to moderate this debate without revealing his own positions. Well done.”

Early on in the debate, Ben Smith of Buzzfeed summarized the view that filtered through much of Twitter later: “Calling it for zzzzzzzzzzzz.”

The debate was not without its Schieffer-isms. To end a discussion of education, Schieffer added: “I think we all love teachers.” And, of course, he began the first debate question with a reference to liberal icon John F. Kennedy.

Schieffer has a long record of liberal positions, but they didn’t play a major role. However, he never called Obama on the closure of Guantanamo, something that Schieffer had called a “cancer.”

And yes, Obama once again had more time than Romney, though only 35 extra seconds. That made the Democrats 4-for-4 in debates, garnering an extra 9 minutes and 27 seconds.

But zzzzzzzzzz or race-baiting, one thing’s certain, the last debate will be analyzed to death between now and the election.

This article is part of our ongoing series of "bias alerts" which focuses on calling out bias in the media. For additional bias alerts click here