Mitt Romney Won the Night, But Will It Change the Race?
Mitt Romney delivered a knockout performance, but how much will it change the race?
October 4, 2012
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's surely pleased. Predicting last Sunday that the race would "turn upside down come Thursday morning," Christie asserted that Mitt Romney would perform impressively in his first general election presidential debate. He was right.
As the post-debate commentary made clear, Romney won. While he was fully present and engaging, President Obama seemed to be debating in absentia. His incumbency showed—and not in a good way. The snap polls of debate viewers and focus groups of uncommitted voters confirmed the pundits' impressions and revealed that the night belonged to Romney.
But will the night change the day? In some ways that matter the campaign dynamics will change, but the country is far too polarized and incumbent elections are far too stable for even a "knockout" performance like this to upset too much.
- Republicans, who spent most of the year being "anti-Obama" rather than "pro-Romney," are now likely more enthusiastic about Romney than they were before.
- Independent and undecided voters, displeased with Obama, but uncertain about Romney after the barrage of attack advertisements and media caricatures may now be more open to hearing Republican campaign messages.
- Democrats, while perhaps feeling demoralized and slightly desperate, are now likely to rally more steadfastly behind the President and come at Romney with everything they've got.
What doesn't change? The fundamentals that have driven this contest all year: entrenched partisan divisions, a weak economy, and the fact that no matter how much both sides keep talking about this election being a "choice," to the vast majority of voters, it will be a "referendum" on the president and his tenure in office.
Confident and competent, Romney demonstrated last night that he wants to be president. He also reassured the country that he is more than up to the task. Surprising to most nearly everyone except Christie, Romney exceeded expectations.
Time to fasten your seat belts because what's been a close election all year just got closer, and the last month may well turn into a wild ride.