Thursday, October 04, 2012 :::
Everything I know about what happened at the debate is second-hand, but the consensus seems to be that Romney won. It's more important that people thought he handled himself well than that people thought that Obama handled himself poorly (though with a few exceptions, most of the reports I've seen have said Obama handled himself poorly).
I'm reminded of his first debate with Ted Kennedy in 1994, but with roles reversed. The way I remember it, half my lifetime ago, Romney was behind Kennedy in the polls, but he was catching up and was closer than any Kennedy opponent had been in a long time, in large part because people were concerned that Kennedy was getting old and he seemed to have, for once, a viable challenger. At their first debate, Kennedy outperformed and persuaded the swing vote that he was still viable himself. At least as far as I remember, Romney didn't fumble, but he didn't need to for Kennedy to regain control. The 1980 election was before my time, but my understanding is that Reagan had the same challenge against Carter - going into the debate, voters didn't care for Carter but were wary of this guy they'd heard was a right-wing nut. It didn't help Carter that his twelve-year-old daughter was a key advisor, but it was more important that Reagan persuaded voters that he could do the job. It wasn't news to voters that Carter couldn't.
One of the key things I've noticed in the polls is that the undecided vote has a pretty negative opinion of both Obama and Romney. I would assume that their opinion of the incumbent is more fixed. If Romney is to win, it's going to be by convincing those voters that he's really not so bad. Talking about the unemployment rate and Solyndra and the like isn't a waste of time, but most of the potential voters whose votes are up in the air already agree, generally, that Obama has been mediocre at best; Romney's key challenge is to persuade them that he would be better. He hasn't finished that job, and I still have the sense that Obama is the favorite, though I'm not fully certain even of that. But if Romney does get elected, I assume that debate will have been a turning point.
::: posted by Steven at 12:18 AM