Last night there was quite a good (all things considered) debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Most pundits and voters polled thought Barack Obama “won” – and even conservative pundit George Will said this giving about giving the win to Obama:
It was the best debate he’s ever seen? Really? That’s an opinion that might discredit everything else just mentioned, but ultimately, I’m sure most pundits would agree that Barack Obama certainly came up with a much stronger performance than his listless Denver debate and energized the Democratic base in the process. However, despite an internet obsession with Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment, there’s a few reasons why this debate won’t move any poll numbers for either candidate like the first did for Mitt Romney:
1. Undecided Voters probably didn’t “change their minds” after a much narrower win for Obama than Romney’s blowout Denver debate victory. Any corresponding bump in poll numbers for the Obama campaign certainly won’t be as high as the 1-2 points Romney has gained in aggregated polling averages since October 6.
2. Take “instant reaction polls” as you will, but included in Nate Silver’s overview of them was this interesting survey of independent Colorado voters:
“A Public Policy Polling survey of Colorado voters who watched the debate found 48 percent declaring Mr. Obama the winner, and 44 percent for Mr. Romney. Mr. Obama’s advantage was clearer in the poll among independent voters, who gave him a 58-36 edge. However, the candidates were roughly tied when Public Policy Polling asked them how the debate swayed their vote, with 37 percent saying the debate made them more likely to vote for Mr. Obama, with 36 percent for Mr. Romney.”
While Obama was deemed to have won the debate by a significant margin, neither candidate “swayed” a greater portion of the vote. Nate Cohn of The New Republic had some interesting insights on why this might be the case:
“If someone thought Romney was a good enough guy after the last debate, they probably still feel that way. Romney appeared capable of handling the presidency and an undecided voter who was previously open to supporting him would probably still be open to him tomorrow morning.”
3. Independent and undecided voters were likely turned off by the tone of the debate, with both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama interrupting each other, the moderator Candy Crowley, and things getting quite testy at times during some exchanges. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post had an excellent summary in his debate winners and losers column:
“Loser - Undecideds: Can you say with a straight face that there was anything in that debate — style or substance — that would convince an undecided voter to get off the fence? Us either. The argumentative tone from both candidates is the sort of stuff undecideds and independents voters don’t like a bit — and affirms for them why politics is broken.”
We’ve known since the start of the race that the 2012 Presidential election was likely going to be very close. And who’s the deciding swing vote in close elections? Independent voters. With less than three weeks left, we’re all in for quite a ride. Strap yourselves in for the barrage of campaign ads, media narratives, and spin.