'Where was Obama tonight?' (MSNBC)
Minutes after Wednesday's presidential debate ended, MSNBC host Chris Matthews unloaded on President Barack Obama's lackluster performance.
Thursday morning, he was still fired up.
"The way the president handled it was just not up to the task," Matthews, still in Denver where the debate was held, said in a remote interview on the "Today" show. "Romney was able to talk about things like funding for PBS and never had to explain his position supporting bankruptcy for the American auto industry. Obama rescued the American auto industry, our largest industrial industry, [and] it never came up."
Right after the debate Wednesday night, Matthews, anchoring the cable network's coverage from Denver, had said, "I don't know what he was doing out there. He had his head down, he was enduring the debate rather than fighting it. I don't know how he let Romney get away with the crap he threw out tonight."
"Where was Obama tonight?" he steamed.
[Related: Lehrer's debate moderation mauled by critics]
In his assessment on the "Today" show, the "Hardball" host also noted that Obama had many opportunities to hit Romney hard but failed to do so.
"The 47 percent—he let Romney come out there as a guy who cared about people and Social Security," Matthews said. "[Romney's] on the record with his fundraisers where you pay $50,000 to hear what he really thinks. He says these people are all moochers and bums.
"On health care, four or five times [Obama] slipped away," an exasperated Matthews continued. "How did the president let him get away with point after point after point?"
Like plenty of other pundits, Matthews also blamed moderator Jim Lehrer for allowing Romney to wrangle control of the debate.
"I think [Obama] had to be both the moderator and the fact checker," Matthews said. "He could've done it like a gentleman. I thought Romney was excellent with his civility, his respect for the office of the president. I think the president could have done the same thing and sliced through all the claims by Romney."