Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, like many disappointed Democrats, thought President Obama came up very short in his Wednesday debate with Mitt Romney.

"The president looked lethargic, disinterested, passive," Rendell told The Hill Thursday morning. "I can't believe the president didn't fight back. He had so many openings ... he let [Romney] get away with one misstatement after another without fighting back, didn't mention the 47 percent. When Romney mentioned his accountant he had nothing to say. If there was a strategy it was a noncombatant strategy and it makes no sense."

Rendell, the former head of the Democratic National Committee and a longtime ally of former President Clinton, said Obama's debate performance suggested he was trying to "run the clock out" and that in the next debate he needs to "bounce back and be more assertive, look at Romney, not his notes, look like he's not angry to be onstage."

"I have no idea what their strategy was unless it was to try and run the clock out," Rendell contended. "Teams in sports who try to run out the clock and play it safe lose all or part of their lead."

The former governor credited Romney for a strong performance, saying he "looked and sounded presidential" and "compassionate," but said much of his policy prescriptions, as well as his refusal to detail which tax exemptions he'd end in order to pay for his planned tax cuts, were "baloney," and blamed Obama for not calling him out more on factual inaccuracies.

Rendell, a big fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, said it was time for Obama to study the game film in order to improve at the next debate, which will occur on Oct. 16.

"He's got to fare better, he's got to be sharper. As painful as it is, just like a football coach, he's got to look at the tape of this debate over and over again, find those missed opportunities and be ready," he said. "They can't panic. The worst thing they can do is panic, go negative, that would feed the dialogue of a campaign in retreat. One not so great debate's outcome isn't going to influence the election. There's plenty of time to bounce back."