BuzzFeed's Ben Smith only needed 40 minutes of a 90-minute debate to pick the "winner."
Mitt Romney, trailing in the polls, needed to prove tonight that he could stand on stage with President Barack Obama as an equal and a plausible president of the United States.
He did that in the crucial first 40 minutes of Wednesday night's debate, addressing Obama respectfully, even warmly -- but then tangling with a sometimes hazy and professorial Obama on taxes and deficits.
"You don't just pick the winners and losers -- you pick the losers," he told Obama of his energy investments, sliding time and time again into a second person singular address calculated to level the rhetorical playing field.
Calling a game in the middle of the fourth inning isn't standard practice in any league.
UPDATE: Conservatives like Sean Hannity quickly began highlighting Smith's early call of a Romney victory: