by Ray Fleming

Boxing analogies were in favour in the American press yesterday to describe the fight between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Tuesday night. The New York Times called it a “bare fist” encounter and that was about right.

Obama attacked from the moment the seconds were out and Romney responded in kind before the first round was over. The immediate reactions of political journalists and selected panels of voters was to give Obama a clear points win but it was not a knock-out as Romney's had been two weeks earlier.

Mitt Romney is beginning to sound like a talking machine; put in the right coin -- the economy, jobs, Obamacare -- and out pour the familiar statistics in endless flow and at a speed that makes it impossible to assess them.

When he is on less sure ground he shows sign of faltering -- for instance his attempt to claim that the Obama administration had misled the American people for five days about the death of Ambassador Stevens in Libya by failing to admit it had been a terrorist attack. Obama calmly said that he had described it as a terrorist attack at a White House press conference on the following day and he almost shamed Romney by saying of his accusation: “That's not what we do. That's not what I do as President” Foreign policy is next and last on Monday.