By Jay Levine

CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s “game on” in the 2012 race for the White House, after a strong showing Wednesday night by Republican Mitt Romney.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine, back from the Denver debate, sorts through the second-day analysis.

There’s no debate that Romney made the better showing, unless you count the Obama camp’s contention that Romney did it with a combination of smoke and mirrors and outright lies.

“Gov. Romney came to give a performance, and he gave a good performance, and we give him credit for that,” President Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod told reporters in a conference call Thursday. “He is a very good performer in debates, and partly because he is completely untethered from the truth.”

Obama tried to make light of the situation Thursday at an appearance by saying, “When I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.”

Romney, meanwhile, was basking in the notice he received.

“Last night was a great opportunity for the American people to see two very different visions for the country,” he said.

According to a CBS News Poll of uncommitted voters, Romney was the clear winner.

“I give credit to Gov. Romney. His campaign was on life support in many peoples’ minds, and I think he did what he had to do, which is come out aggressive, come out energetic, and really try to take it to the president,” said Democratic strategist Eric Adelstein, who noted there’s still four weeks of campaigning.

Republican strategist John McGovern said the debate underscored how Obama doesn’t always react well to confrontation.

“I think when someone stands toe to toe with him and challenges him, he’s not used to it and he doesn’t always know how to respond,” McGovern says.

It’s clear Obama will have to be more engaged in the next debate on Long Island the week after next — not necessarily taking the fight to Romney, but doing a better job of counter-punching when Romney comes back at him.

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