All right, the second presidential debate went down last night.
And our two candidates threw down.
More after the jump.
So, President Obama and Republican nominee for president and former Governor Mitt Romney squared off in a town hall-style debate during primetime, in front of millions of viewers online and on TV and a crowd of about 90 undecided voters that Gallup randomly selected from a pool.
And the verdict is… Obama wins by a slight margin.
Let’s break it down:
Obama Was Way More Animated This Time
The President was not looking at his shoes while waiting for Romney to finish. He was turning away from the audience to stare down his opponent.
At times he would get in Romney’s face and there were some beautiful moments when it appeared like one was going to take a swing at the other. I was really hoping that would’ve gone down. I don’t care who starts it. I want my presidential candidates to fist fight.
Shit, that’s how Putin won. True story.*
Romney Didn’t Back Down, But Got Caught In Details
The former Massachussetts governor was not shrinking from Obama’s advance, but at times his aggression would get himself caught in miniscule arguments that were not pertinent to the overall debate topic.
Charles Krauthammer (a well-known conservative and Fox News analyst) said: “When Romney went large, he did well. When he went small, which he did here and there, I think Obama got the better of him.”
He went on to say: “And then, there was one tactical error Romney made, which was he kept asking the president questions. Every lawyer knows you never ask a question for which you don’t already have the answer in hand.”
Yet Again, This Is About Campaign Ads
Debates don’t win elections. Things you say in debates, when recontextualized and repeated over and over in battleground states, however, can definitely lose them.
Romney’s “binder full of women” comment won’t be on those ads. I hope, anyway. It’s a stupid turn of phrase, but it’s a meme at best. Obama’s “Some jobs aren’t coming back” will most certainly be taken out of context (he said that low wage, low skill jobs were leaving, and he endeavored to replace them with high wage, high skill jobs).
We’re Done With Domestic Issues
The third and final presidential debate will be restricted just to foreign policy. So what time was spent on domestic policies will be the last we hear of it in a debate setting. Obama challenged Romney on immigration and women’s issues, while Romney struck back on taxes and spending.
Romney’s waffling on self-deportation did not go over well with Hispanic voters, a key demographic that’s increasing in number. Obama’s economic attacks haven’t yet landed, but polling data suggests the notion that Romney can’t cut taxes without increasing the deficit is starting to catch on. The problem, many believe, is the messenger of those attacks hasn’t yet pulled the country completely out of the recession recovery.
Were unemployment even down another half a point — say, 7.3% — it would be significantly easier for Obama to say he knows a thing or two that the Governor refuses to realize about the economy. As it stands now, unemployment is still unacceptably high and while people may not be buying Romney’s story, they aren’t necessarily buying Obama’s either.
Biden And Obama Stopped The Bleeding
It takes a few days for polls to really reflect how people respond to the debates. After Obama’s freefall following his first debate with Romney, many believed it was up to Biden to put a floor under that fall.
Following the first debate, Obama’s lead in battleground Nevada dissolved, and polling numbers in Ohio over the same period ranged from Obama +7 to Romney + 1. After the VP debate, those seem to have relaxed into a tighter race, but with Obama favored. Later this week, or by the start of the final debate next Monday, we’ll see if he gets a strong bump from his debate performance, or if it remains essentially a 50.5/49.5 tossup with Obama a 1-point advantage.
Early Voting’s Still Going On
Don’t forget, there are people who are voting right now, and in increasing numbers than before. While the larger percentage of our population will vote on November 6th, early voters typically are party players, and it’s not a question of who they’re going to vote for, but whether they’re going to vote.
Which means enthusiasm. When early voting had began, Obama’s lead was still strong and he had an advantage both in Ohio and in early voting polling. Then his numbers dropped, and now we’re in the twilight zone. Did Obama do enough to regain the enthusiasm of his more liberal supporters? Did Romney maintain his charge with conservative early voters? It’s unknown, but Ohio’s the big one.
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio (And Also Florida)
Listen, I’m from California. No one cares about us in this election. Ohio’s the crucial state. It comes down to this: If Romney wins Ohio, he’s got a path to victory. If he loses Ohio, he’s going to have to pull out some huge upsets to win. It’s not impossible, but statistically very, very unlikely for him to win without Ohio. Romney’s got a slight lead in Florida, but that lead can very easily evaporate.
If Romney were to win, the most likely path would be victory in both Ohio and Florida. Without both of those tightly contested battlegrounds, it’s incredibly unlikely Romney will win the presidency. Conversely, Obama needs only to win one of those states to retain the White House, in the most likely models.
Keep an eye out, guys! Last debate is on Monday, October 22nd. Tune in!
* Not a true story.
Question: Election predictions…?