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10/29/2012 09:01 am ET

Secrets Of The 2012 Presidential Debates: Host-School Profs Provide Post-Debate Analysis (WATCH)

There's no doubt that this month's presidential debates had a major impact on the race for the Oval Office in 2012. President Barack Obama's lethargic performance in the first debate helped challenger Gov. Mitt Romney pull even with (and, in some reports, ahead of) Obama, who had enjoyed a rather wide lead in most polls until that point. And the other debates added such phrases to our political lexicon as "horses and bayonets" and "binders full of women."

Before the debates, HuffPost College sat down with a professor of political-science or American history from each of the four schools that hosted a debate -- the University of Denver, Centre College, Hofstra University and Lynn University -- to preview what we could expect to see.

Following the final debate at Lynn University, HuffPost Executive Education Editor Lance Gould sat down with those same professors again to get the inside story of what took place behind the scenes at each school. (Lynn University's Robert Watson -- professor and director of American Studies at the Boca Raton, Florida-based school -- was unable to participate in the video but added commentary immediately after the taping took place.)

Highlights include:

Spin Alley in Denver: "Both sides -- both the Democratic and Republican sides -- had roughly equal numbers of spinners when the debate ended, and the Democrats very quickly left -- after about five or 10 minutes there, there were almost no Democrat spinners there, and it was just a sea of red, Republican spinners left...But for whatever reason, the Republicans chose to stay around and talk to reporters and the Democrats decided to leave the room." -- Seth Masket, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Denver

International Visitors at Hofstra: "It was the Town Hall debate at Hofstra that sparked the most controversy with Candy Crowley's answering of the question on terror and Libya... We had an international delegation visiting Hofstra -- I think all of the schools did, this was at the Commission's invitation, do other democracies, newly emerging democracies, that are seeking to host presidential debates, or want to see how we do them in the United States -- and overwhelmingly, the response was, the day after the debate, that Crowley shouldn't have engaged the discussion. That she needed to halt it." -- Meena Bose, Director of Hofstra’s Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency

Centre College Assistant Professor of Government Ben Knoll added commentary on the vice-presidential debate that took place at his school, in Danville, Ky. And Watson added thoughts on moderators generally: "It is time to rethink the role of the moderator. The public was likely disappointed in the moderators’ general inability (except for Martha Raddatz) to manage the debate… and I say this as someone who feels that moderators must get out of the way as a general rule. Not since Bernie Shaw’s inappropriate softball to Dukakis in 1988 has the moderator’s performance been such a story. It may also be time to contemplate a 20-something from the social media to moderate a new type of debate. That generation and the social media have come of age and deserve a more prominent seat at the table… literally!

All four debates were sponsored by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

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