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By USA TODAY

Instant polls gave President Obama the edge over Mitt Romney in last night's debate.

Respondents to aCNN poll favored Obama by a 46%-39% margin -- though they also favored Romney's responses on economic issues by 18 percentage points.

"Mitt Romney was seen as better able to handle the economy, taxes, and the budget deficit among the debate audience, but it seems that issues were trumped, or at least blunted, by intangibles, including the expectations game," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The real test of the debate's impact -- or lack of same -- will come in the next several days with vote polls across the country.

And don't forget the next debate, on foreign affairs, comes up Monday.

The New York Timessummarizes reaction to last night's set-to:

"A CBS News/Knowledge networks poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 37 percent giving an advantage to Mr. Obama, 30 percent favoring Mitt Romney and 33 percent calling the debate a tie. That represents a narrower lead for Mr. Obama than Mr. Romney had after the first debate in Denver, when a similar poll gave Mr. Romney a 46-22 edge. ...

"Two other polls gave Mr. Obama a somewhat clearer advantage. A Battleground poll of likely voters in swing states who watched the debate had him winning 53-38.

"An online poll by Google Consumer Surveys gave Mr. Obama a 48 percent to 31 percent edge among registered voters.

"There were also two scientific surveys about the debate conducted among voters in particular states.

"A Public Policy Polling survey of Colorado voters who watched the debate found 48 percent declaring Mr. Obama the winner, and 44 percent for Mr. Romney. Mr. Obama's advantage was clearer in the poll among independent voters, who gave him a 58-36 edge. However, the candidates were roughly tied when Public Policy Polling asked them how the debate swayed their vote, with 37 percent saying the debate made them more likely to vote for Mr. Obama, with 36 percent for Mr. Romney.

"Finally, a poll of California voters who watched the debate, conducted by SurveyUSA, found a 56-32 edge for Mr. Obama. It is no surprise that Mr. Obama won a poll of California voters, and the poll showed a tie, 44-44, among independents in California. Still, a similar poll of California voters by SurveyUSA had given an edge to Mr. Romney after the first debate.

"How much will the debate move the head-to-head polls between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama? Actually, the instant-reaction polls may not be very much help in answering that question. The relationship between the quick-reaction polls and their eventual effect on the horse-race polls has historically been very modest, and has sometimes even run in the opposite direction of what the initial polls suggested. Debates sometimes look different in the rear-view mirror, depending on news media coverage, YouTube and cable news highlights, word of mouth, and subsequent developments on the campaign trail."

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