The Prof's Debate Grades:
The October 3 Debate (see my previous post of advice for each candidate) was a huge - and desperately needed breath of life and enthusiasm for the Romney campaign. Almost universally, the pundits and both campaigns acknowledged that Romney was a pretty clear winner. He was more aggressive and was able to showcase his considerable skills though an unfiltered medium. He also benefited from rather low expectations given the direction of the campaign over the past several weeks. In short, Romney was able to finally humanize himself and present a clear contrast to the president.
President Obama's performance is harder to evaluate. There was little in his answers that seemed factually wrong, although one may disagree with his conclusions...but there was a visible lack of energy and vitality. Post-debate polling from Gallup and CNN showed a clear victory for Romney among debate viewers. As this is a purely visual medium, Obama's low energy and lackluster appearance contrasted with Romney's good (but not excellent) performance.
The national polls have shifted dramatically over the past week as well. Pew, Gallup, George Washington University, et all are showing a clear momentum shift to Romney at both the state and national level. In my years of political analysis, I have rarely seen one debate seem to shift the political landscape so much. Why so? Some theories:
- Obama had a lot of "soft" support. When Romney was able to present his case against Obama in an unfiltered medium, he was able to get some of these folks to at least reconsider him.
- The bandwagon effect - now that Romney appears to have momentum, undecided voters and "leaners" are moving toward him.
- The relatively poor debate performance of Obama made a subset of voters change their perspective of him.
- Romney's performance and persona did not match the caricature that he has been painted - quite effectively I might add - by the Obama campaign since July.
- Republican enthusiasm is now outperforming the Democrat's enthusiasm. A buoyed party will vote in higher numbers than a depressed one.
So where are we now?
I still think Obama has the overall advantage, but a much smaller one than he had a week ago. Polls have moved to near parity in states where the president had a decided advantage.
Early voting is now underway - organization and enthusiasm are key for the next four weeks.
There are still two presidential debates to go. Expect Obama to be MUCH more aggressive. However, aggression needs to be tempered, otherwise one does not look presidential.
Oh yes - VP SmackDown (I am an unabashed pro-wrestling fan) will be must see TV on Thursday evening! This will be one of those rare VP debates that may be quite meaningful.