Today, the day after the big Romney victory in the first of three TV-debates with president Obama, the question is if it will have a lasting effect on the rest of the election campaign. We won’t know until new polls are published in the coming days.
The first quick polls by CNN and CBS confirm what all of the 50 million could see and experience, an energetic and aggressive Romney won, and won handily, the TV debate against a dull and listless Barack Obama.
The question is how many of the 50 million could follow the often detailed, wonkish, discussion, full of numbers and facts. And how many got tired or bored, and tuned out before the end? We don’t know, which makes it more difficult to predict whether Romney’s uptick in the first opinion polls will continue, and, thus, whether his debate victory will have a lasting impact on the remaining election campaign. A great majority, both on the left and on the right, agrees that Romney won, but how much does this really means for the voters’ verdict on November 6?
The prominent political analyst, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, on his “Sabato’s Crystal Ball”:
“Just because Romney won handily – and the press will report it that way – that does not mean voter preferences will necessarily change all that much. Often, voters can judge one candidate to have won a Debate, but not change their ballot choice as a consequence….History cautions us not to over-state the importance of any debate, if this one really does move the numbers in a significant way for Romney, it will be more exception than rule in the relatively short history of televised American presidential debates.”
In anticipation of new polls, the discussion today centered on what happened to Obama. Why did he not attack Romney harder? Why did he let so much of what Romney said stand unchallenged? Why did he let himself be interrupted by Romney? Why did he not say anything about Romney’s “47 percent? Disappointed liberal commentators had many questions and some urged Obama to change tactics.
Charles Blow on the blog “Campaign Stops” in the New York Times:
“This is the closing argument of a campaign. The jury has heard all the evidence that it’s going to hear. The candidates needed to deliver a strong, moving summation. We all know that Obama is capable of stirring oratory, but in the first debate he failed to deliver. The guy with the weaker case made the stronger statement, falsehoods and all, and that is a dangerous thing to allow so close to Election Day.”
Others, like Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast, saw the debate as evidence that Mitt Romney, so known for his flip-flops, had changed his persona yet again and now returned to being a moderate Massachusetts Republican – a “Rockefeller Republican” – and that Obama had no response to this “new” Romney. Obama was “terrible,” Tomasky wrote:
“There’s no use pretending this doesn’t shake up the race. It surely does. How much, none of us knows. The Democratic spinners need to get busy on the fact-checking front. But this is mostly about Obama. Romney caught him totally flatfooted with the Rockefeller Republican move, and Obama didn’t know how to respond. If this is the new Romney, he’d better figure out how.”
This “new” Romney will have much to answer for in the coming weeks. The image of a candidate that voters do not really know where he stands has been strengthened. How credible is it that Romney now wants to appear as Medicare’s great defender, that he no longer wishes to acknowledge his big tax cut plan totaling 5 trillion dollars, that he has suddenly become the defender of the middle class, the same 47 percent he had previously said that he does not care about? We shall see. But surely this is what the Obama campaign will zero in on during the remaining election campaign.