And second, the construct completely falls apart when voters actually see Romney and Ryan for themselves. Millions of Americans have now watched the alternatives to Obama and Biden for 90 minutes at a time, uninterrupted.
In the debates, voters saw for themselves that Romney is not the man the Obama campaign had made him out to be. Obama and Biden stood in clear contrast to the serious, polite, and reasonable challengers. Both Ryan and Romney passed the threshold test: could voters actually picture them as president and vice president? Romney's performance in the first debate gave Obama voters a reason to cross over to him.
At the end of his second debate with the president, Romney said, "In the nature of a campaign, it seems that some campaigns are focused on attacking a person rather than prescribing their own future and the things they'd like to do. In the course of that, I think the president's campaign has tried to characterize me as—as someone who's very different than who I am." Romney spoke movingly about his years as a missionary and as a pastor. He instantly neutralized millions of dollars of attack ads.
No matter what happens in the remaining days of the race, the genie is out of the bottle. There's no taking back that Romney is now seen by millions as a viable alternative to Obama, and as I write this, the polls are showing a fundamental shift away from the Democrats.
The false choice has become a real choice.
- Read Leslie Marshall: Obama Is Winning Over Undecided Voters
- Read Susan Milligan: Where Was the Fiscal Cliff in the Obama-Romney Debates?
- Read Peter Roff: The Real Reason Mitt Romney Won the Foreign Policy Debate