First Presidential Debate Could Propel Mitt Romney To Victory

From Charlie Cook at The National Journal:

Before the first presidential debate, it was easy to say that the face-offs usually don’t matter that much. One had to go back to 1976, 1980, and 1984 to find examples of a debate having a material effect on a presidential election. But that first debate earlier this month—specifically, Mitt Romney’s strong performance and President Obama’s weak one—had an impact that we are still seeing, even after the incumbent “won” the next two debates, if the instant polls are to be believed.

A strong performance in that first debate would have probably closed the sale for Obama. Instead, his lackluster showing shifted a bunch of voters who had seemed to be drifting gradually in his direction back into neutral, with some reversing course and moving into Romney’s column.

This race is still a challenge for Romney. Although tied nationally in this new NBC/WSJ and most other polling, he still carries a great deal of scar tissue in some of the swing states—most notably, Ohio and Wisconsin, but also Colorado and Iowa. Romney is clearly better situated to win the popular vote than the electoral vote; Obama is much closer than Romney to the magic 270 number in the Electoral College.

But this is a horse race, a very close one that can still go either way, and that was not the case before the first debate. The debates—and I would say all three of them—hit a reset button for Romney and put him back into this contest.

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Analysis & Political Strategy