While the red-meat crowd painted Obama performance in this year's first Presidential debate as weak, I think that he was smart to be careful about how he came back to Romney's bull. As this interesting post in Daily Kos notes, in the recent Vice Presidential debate Paul Ryan was baiting Joe Biden with questions based on twisted stats that Biden obviously would not know the answer to.
Biden was able to blow this stuff off easily enough, but Obama may have been hard-pressed in that situation. Obama is enough of a lawyer to know that you should never ask a question that you don't know the answer to already, and he may have seen instinctively that Romney's "zingers" may not have been what he put on the table in the debate but what he had lying in store had Obama tried to engage Romney more on his lies and distortions.
So while Obama would have fared better in some ways to refute Romney's fanciful fabrications more effectively, I think that the "rope-a-dope" strategy was the best one overall, though it certainly left him exposed in the polls. In other words, given the Machiavellian trap that the Romney campaign had laid for him, he was best side-stepping it and not giving them the sound bites that they wanted. Now that his campaign understands their strategy better, I think that they can respond to it more effectively. Obama's a responder, not a reacter, which may not please people looking for a good fight, but when the stakes are so high, it's best not to give your opposition the sound bites that they are craving.