Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Post-debate reaction

October 3rd, 2012, 10:33pm by Sam Wang


Seems like Romney did well. Landed some good punches, didn’t look like he was circling the drain. Obama was more natural and got off a few…zingers. To tell the truth, I started zoning out after about 30 minutes.

It’s not enough to change the basic dynamics. Stalemate. I suspect the race will stay where it is now, maybe narrow by a point. Two points if we believe the pundit reactions. This is not enough for Romney. The Meta-Margin is currently at Obama+6.2%.

I do wonder if it will help the GOP downticket. Despite your obsession with the Presidential race, readers, the downticket is far more interesting in the coming weeks. Those races are at center stage (ActBlue / CrossroadsGPS).

Update 1: Commenter JohnJacobs asks about undecided voters. They are now 5.0 +/- 1.0% (n=13 polls, Pollster.com). Read my previous take on undecideds from a week ago – about halfway down the essay. Also see my 2008 essay on how undecideds break. On average, the net benefit to Romney from undecideds will be 0.3 +/-1.1%. If he matched the largest recorded break (3:1 for the challenger), he would gain 2.5% of margin.

Update 2: On this comment thread anything goes, including opinions, glee, panic, whatever. Better to channel it, though.

Update 3: The pesky issue of falsehoods arises. See Krugman and Digby. The “Romney-lied” backlash to “Romney-kicked-a**” begins…

Tags: 2012 Election · President

124 Comments so far ↓

  • wufwugy

    Why in the world did undecideds break for Bush against Gore so much?

  • Ms. Jay Sheckley

    A bad situation to start with: Candidates weren’t allowed to ask questions [ http://tinyurl.com/LehrerRules ], so the President couldn’t even say WHAAAT? Borowitz reports the narcolepsy was widespread: http://tinyurl.com/debatolepsy As some fact checkers think they need to list equal numbers of caveats for both debaters, sleepiness has turned into grief.

    To paraphrase Reagan, it’s mourning in America.

    Having already contributed to Sam’s ActBlue, having last week shared “what happens in a tie” info to promote House interest, WTF can I do to bolster the electorate while waiting for a zillion truth-o-meters to bite Mitt in the ass?

    I’ve never Facebooked Sam’s map or the PEC URL because I feared overconfidence would undermine turnout. But I’m considering revealing it now. Opinions??! Of course I wish I had the next week’s map. But “Today’s Map” is a nice label for this Weapon of Mass Demographics.

    Here one of the zillion points coming out:
    Thom Hartmann today quoted this Romney-to-Obama line: “You make a very good point–which is that the place you put your money, makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is.” Mitt was born in Detroit, but “Swiss Mitt” loves sending prosperity to the Bahamas, China, war zones…. But the man whose dad carried a British passport (not Kenyan) wants our dollars here.

  • Paul K2

    NYTimes has an editorial that sums up my POV very well (since some can’t get the editorial from behind the paywall, I will post in entirety over several comments, if necessary):

    An Unhelpful Debate
    The first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, so long anticipated, quickly sunk into an unenlightening recitation of tired talking points and mendacity. With few sparks and little clarity on the immense gulf that truly separates the two men and their policies, Wednesday’s encounter provided little guidance for voters still trying to understand the choice in next month’s election.

    The Mitt Romney who appeared on the stage at the University of Denver seemed to be fleeing from the one who won the Republican nomination on a hard-right platform of tax cuts, budget slashing and indifference to the suffering of those at the bottom of the economic ladder. And Mr. Obama’s competitive edge from 2008 clearly dulled, as he missed repeated opportunities to challenge Mr. Romney on his falsehoods and turnabouts.

    Virtually every time Mr. Romney spoke, he misrepresented the platform on which he and Paul Ryan are actually running. The most prominent example, taking up the first half-hour of the debate, was on taxes. Mr. Romney claimed, against considerable evidence, that he had no intention of cutting taxes on the rich or enacting a tax cut that would increase the deficit.

    That simply isn’t true. Mr. Romney wants to restore the Bush-era tax cut that expires at the end of this year and largely benefits the wealthy. He wants to end the estate tax and the gift tax, providing a huge benefit only to those with multimillion-dollar estates, at a cost of more than $1 trillion over a decade to the deficit. He wants to preserve the generous rates on capital gains that benefit himself personally and others at his economic level. And he wants to cut everyone’s tax rates by 20 percent, which again would be a gigantic boon to the wealthy.

    None of these would cost the Treasury a dime, he insisted, because he would reduce deductions and loopholes. But, as always, he refused to enumerate a single deduction he would erase. “What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit,” he said. “No economist can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.”

    In fact, many economists have said exactly that, and, without details, Mr. Romney can’t simply refute them. But rather than forcefully challenging this fiction, Mr. Obama chose to be polite and professorial, as if hoping that strings of details could hold up against blatant nonsense. Viewers were not helped by a series of pedestrian questions from the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, who never jumped in to challenge either candidate on the facts.

    When Mr. Romney accused the president of supporting a “trickle-down government,” Mr. Obama might have demanded to know what that means. He could then have pointed out that it is Mr. Romney whose economic plan is based on the discredited idea that high-end tax cuts trickle down to the middle class and poor.

    Mr. Romney said he supported the idea of regulation but rejected the Dodd-Frank financial reform law because it was too generous to the big “New York banks.” This is an alternative-universe interpretation of a law that is deeply despised and opposed by the banks, but Mr. Obama missed several opportunities to point out how the law limits the corrosive practices, like derivatives trading, that led to the 2008 crash and puts in place vitally important consumer protections.

    On health care, Mr. Romney pretended that he had an actual plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and that it covered pre-existing conditions. He has no such plan, and his false claim finally roused the president to his only strong moment of the evening. The country doesn’t know the details, he said, of how Mr. Romney would replace Wall Street reform, or health care reform, or tax increases on the rich because Republicans don’t want people to understand the hard trade-offs involved in these decisions.

    There are still two more presidential debates, and Mr. Obama has the facts on his side to expose the hollowness of his opponent. But first he has to decide to use them aggressively.

  • KEL

    Easy to “win” a debate if you are willing to ignore or mis-represent the facts.

    I think Romney used the opportunity to try and appear to be centrist but at the same time re-enforce his conservative credentials by strengthening the conservative frame as described by Lakoff: http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/10/27_lakoff.shtml

  • wheelers cat

    I’ll debrief.
    Romney came off as the alpha male. Conservatives worship alphas. The media is thrilled to pimp the narrative that the horserace goes on.
    But I think Romney made a bad mistake when he went after PBS.
    It might have been a gaffe.
    Everyone under 50 grew up with Sesame Street, and that is the demographic Romney needs not to alienate. the olds are already voting Romney.

    • E L

      WC: The odd comment that may stick in voters’ memories is Romney firing Big Bird because its fits Huckabee’s description of Romney as “looking like the boss who fired your father.” Obama hit on it today.

  • Olav Grinde

    @Steve in Colorado: Thanks!

    And I just came across this while searching for other things:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/04/obama-vs-romney-presidential-debate-fact-check-who-lied.html

  • Jade

    Just wanted to say thank you for your analysis. I can imagine this is time consuming and difficult to put into laymen’s terms, but you do it quite successfully.

    Best wishes in the future,

    Jade

  • Steve In Colorado

    I think factcheck.org is the go to website for this type of stuff:
    http://factcheck.org/2012/10/dubious-denver-debate-declarations/

  • Olav Grinde

    Two simple questions:

    1) Can anyone point me to a thorough, non-partisan (and preferably prominent) fact-checking summary of the statements made by Romney and Obama in last night’s debate?

    2) To what degree do mis-stating or mis-representing the facts matter in a presidential debate in this day and age?

  • Brian

    I watched on CNN, and they had the “Colorado undecideds” live knob meter thing going. Which I hate. But, the gender gap was palpable. Throughout the debate, men had the knob turned way down on Obama, way up on Romney. Women, pretty much the opposite.

    To me, this just reinforced what we’ve been learning about so-called undecideds; these people have really already made up their mind, they just won’t readily admit it. All this to say: I mostly agree with Dr. Wang, that the effect of Obama’s loss in this debater will be minimal. People already in the tank for a given candidate, whether they admit it or not, are largely not going to change their vote unless something *big* happens in the world.

  • Amitabh Lath

    I saw the debate, and frankly, Romney performed like you would expect him to. The media had built up a “bumbling loser” image of him that was overblown. So yes, he will gain some because let’s face it, his negatives were inflated.

    Actually, I am really excited that now we have a delta function event to test the response of the Median-EV estimate. Let’s see the speed and magnitude with which it responds.

    • Froggy

      I don’t know how fast and far the Median EV estimate will move, but I expect the Meta-Margin to drop a couple of percent in the next week, maybe even before the weekend is over.

      Right now the Meta-Margin is very high (6.18%), based on a collection of states, worth 275EV, that are at least Obama +7. From there it is a big drop off to a couple of states (Iowa and Colorado) that are O+4. All it would take to drop the Meta-Margin by 2% would be for one or two states in the 275EV group to drop to O+4 or lower.

    • Sam Wang

      I sense we should simply add the event to the chart now, as a prediction.

  • DDS

    I saw the entire debate, and it must have been a different one than most people watched. I thought Mr. Romney looked desperate and President Obama looked, …well…, presidential.

    • Mike

      I agree with you completely, and was equally perplexed by the analysis of the debate. Romney appeared to be foaming at the mouth, while Obama was calm and collected. Obama answered the debate questions directly and explicitly, while while Romney evaded the questions, and provided no specific answers to questions whatsoever. What the heck is going on here? Maybe we were watching a different debate.

  • Olav Grinde

    We’ll soon see if you’re right. Let’s hope so.

    I hope to see the Obama–Romney debate later today or tomorrow. (Don’t have a TV and didn’t want to stay up to watch it online.)

    However, after skimming the headlines and reading the BBC’s analysis, I must admit I am puzzled…

    Did Obama fail to rebut key accusations? Did he really fail to attack Romney on the 47%, on Bain’s outsourcing of jobs, on Governor Ryan sinking Massachusetts to no. 47 on job creation, on Romneycare being very much like Obamacare (except that Romneycare funded abortions), on lying about the 716 Medicare billions, etc etc etc.

    I am left wondering whether President Obama was sick. Or whether he was thoroughly unprepared for Mr Romney’s aggressiveness and became shell-shocked.

    And is it true that Jim Lehrer failed to do his job as moderator, stopping the candidates when they exceeded their allotted time?

    Here is the BBC’s Mark Mardell:

    The three men on the red carpet – the two candidates at their pulpits, and the moderator Jim Lehrer sitting at his over-large desk – all seemed to have a different conception of what the debate should be like, as if they were each playing a different sport on the same field. Romney was playing American football, Obama cricket and Lehrer tiddlywinks.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19825603

    • wheelers cat

      When you watch, Olav, look for my favorite couplet.

      OBAMA: There has to be revenue in addition to cuts. Now, Governor Romney has ruled out revenue. He’s ruled out revenue.
      ROMNEY: Absolutely.

      The debate is kabuki, a gladiatorial combat for mass consumption. And it keeps the horserace alive for a while. We were getting perilously close to where Romney was going to have to fall on his sword.

    • Olav Grinde

      Will do.

  • HJM

    It’s possible that Obama behaved rationally. The facts are against him on the economy – he said he would fix it, and that people should judge him by whether he fixed it, and it’s still pretty lousy.
    Romeny opened with powerful images of desperate people asking him for help, knowing Obama capitalized on the same images 4 years ago. If Obama had taken the bait, the debate would have been over and it might have been enough to change the dynamics.
    Instead, Obama drew Romney into an endless discussion of details, statistics, and who said what when. Obama limited Romeny’s chances for broad emotional appeals. Obama mostly stayed away from direct personal attacks, which almost always backfire.

    Obama was talking to the undecideds, reminding them he can stay focused and won’t be drawn into partisan point-scoring. That was the best he could do with a bad hand.

    Romney had to remind the right he can be trusted and appeal to the middle. His task was a bit easier because he can make a credible case that he knows how to fix the lousy economy. If Obama had tried a direct attack on Romney’s credentials, he would have lost. There, too, Obama had to keep the focus on policy proposals, which he did.

    Or, maybe Obama is not rational at all. Maybe everyone just forgot he’s an indifferent debator.

    I’ll be watching Sam’s numbers to find out which is correct.

    • Olav Grinde

      That’s a fascinating alternative analysis. I’ll keep it in mind when I watch the debate later. Haven’t done so yet.

    • wheelers cat

      Obama maybe an indifferent debater in the ‘Quien es mas macho?’ school of American Debate Style. That is why HotAir has the headline ‘Romney Crushes Obama’. That is how they perceive the outcome.
      But from a game theoretic perspective, Obama is an excellent gamer.
      Obama cant play ‘Quien es mas macho?’ because he’s black.
      It would freak too many citizens out.
      That is how he beat McCain– by looking calm and presidential.

  • wheelers cat

    I wonder if Obama’s chill presentation was influenced by the latest version of the Drudge/Carlson “whitey tape”. He consistently refuses to present as the angry black man conservatives dream of.
    OTOH #firebigbird is trending on twitter right now.
    RAND is showing the first genuine reversal outside of the MOE now. the trend started on 9/26. Given that the panelists have a week to respond to their questions, I’m not at all sure this is the result of the debate.
    Flash polls have a lot of variability.
    I’ll wait for the actual polling data.
    I also thought the debate was snore city. Romney lied his ass off with mucho manly confidence, Obama tried to educate the audience about the real problems.
    Kinda like Dr. Wang does here.
    ;-)

    • wheelers cat

      I’m sorry to reply to my own comment, but it occurs to me that this is the ‘quien es mas macho’ style of american political discourse.
      Of course, if Obama plays that game, he loses, because of skin color.

    • Olav Grinde

      I remember hearing the Carter–Reagan debate on the radio. My impression then was that Carter won, hands down. Next morning I was astonished to hear that the TV audience judged it a huge Reagan victory.

    • wheelers cat

      yes Olav.
      Modern american televison debate is very visual.
      I predict a lot of body language analysis today from the pundit class.

  • Steve In Colorado

    I am disappointed in Obama- Romney shook his etcha-sketch, tacked back to the middle and blatantly changed his entire tax policy (well, except the part about collecting no new revenue). Obama should have kept nailing him on what loopholes and deductions he would eliminate and how he would actually be able to reduce the deficit without new revenue.
    Perhaps point out that closing the ‘deferred interest’ loophole might actually help, but then Romney might actually have to pay more than 14% taxes…

  • William Ockham

    I am likely in a minority of one, but I believe that Romney failed miserably in the debate. The only goal of a presidential debate for a candidate who is trailing is to improve his position in the polls. This debate will not help Romney and it probably hurt him. What he needed to do was excite conservative voters and he tacked hard to the center.

  • Ed Groome

    To my not doing my reading, “This year, even if Romney does extremely well, he will still probably make up only 1-2% of the >5% margin between him and President Obama. That is not enough.”

    Fair enough, but your map appears a bit edgier when you pop in Romney’s 2%.

  • Ed Groome

    I’m confused about the “zoning out” after 30 minutes of what, by just about all but the most loyal accounts, ended as a drubbing for Obama. Your previous post referred to the crucial nature of the debates, and the 1-2 % difference you posit, should it go to Romney, makes a big difference in your own interactive electoral map, or yesterday’s at any rate. The zoning out, then, comes off as disingenuous, and it appears there may be a rooting interest at this site belied by the quantitative aspect of its analysis.

    • Sam Wang

      You confuse easily. Maybe you only read the headline of the last essay. The debate might be crucial downticket. By itself, it is not of major interest to the Presidential race. For example the red “strike zone” does not change. If you like seeing the electoral map change, by all means – knock yourself out. I suggest you print the October 15th version.

      As to zoning out…I had just met a redistricting expert and had found a trove of post-redistricting PVI’s. Very geeky, sorry.

  • Jim Henry

    Look, you can sugarcoat this all you’d like, but the key concept is “opportunity cost.” Going into this, Obama had it locked. And while Romney did attack hard with a blizzard of “facts,” most of these were questionable, and the overall claim that he could cut taxes, spending, the deficit, and unemployment all at once was simply water-walking. But Obama lacked a counterpunch on key details like green energy, 23 mm jobless, and $716 b of “Medicare cuts.” He also stood there and let this 47% denigrator get away with portraying himself as a bleeding heart, terribly concerned about the 47 mm on Food Stamps. So your blog trivializes the issue — suddenly we went from a predictable outcome to one that is now subject to much more uncertainty, essentially up for grabs. Romney’s bundlers will have a very good week.

    • Sam Wang

      No, it’s still pretty much the same likely outcome for the Presidential race. I agree that the Meta-Margin will head downward. However, it is not going to get to zero. I agree that Romney’s fundraising should improve.

    • Michael Worley

      What if Romney/Ryan won all 4 debates? Could they like run ads to get people to watch the debates and get a 1.5% bounce from each debate and get it to dead even heading into the last week?

      I know winning 4 debates is like 4 heads in a row, but it is better odds now that we have 3 heads left.

    • Sam Wang

      That is an interesting way of thinking about it. In terms of major events, viewed through state polls, from now to Election Day I would characterize Romney’s challenge as winning 4 or 5 coin tosses in a row. The debate was one coin toss. Subsequent ones need to go in the same direction. All must be of substantial-sized effect.

    • Michael Worley

      tosses 1-4– debates 1-4

      toss 5– no bad gaffes

      Maybe one more “black swan” toss. But you need 5 or 6 heads to win. We have one so I would put it at 87-93% chance of an Obama win, assuming the bounce isn’t too big, which, given RAND, seems reasonable.

    • Sam Wang

      Later debates don’t move opinion by nearly as much. Maybe not at all.

    • Sam Wang

      “No bad gaffes” is not a coin toss. Let me be more precise: an event that pushes the race 1% in either direction is a coin toss. Debates won’t do it either, since the first one counts the most.

  • Chris

    I thank everyone here for their perspective. When you watch the ‘ media’; perspective gets lost. The basics dynamics of the race have not changed. The outcome of this debate will be a push. No long term gain for either side. Kerry won the debates against George Bush, but President Kerry never materialized. Six to ten months of dynamics’ can’t be changed in a single debate. That’s the nice thing with math; it doesn’t get emotional and doesn’t lie.

  • Ms. Jay Sheckley

    For those interested in looking at social media for attitudes, twitter is great tonight. Enter #debate and you’ll see many ther exciting hashtags to choose from, many concerning this year’s big topic— fact checking.
    For those who like the idea of watching Facebook, here’s a neutral search: All public posts containing both candidates. The order of names will not effect results. You don’t need a facebook account to look at
    http://www.facebook.com/search/results.php?q=obama%20%20romney&type=eposts&init=quick&tas=0.6973561959532577
    For a meaty sample, not a tiny one, do the search, then scroll to the bottom of the short list. That way, as you read, scrolling upward, you have an ongoing sample.
    I notice a larger than usual number of _comments_ on Facebook posts and Twitter tweets which instead of emotional responses were links to full fact checking articles. tonight we’re seeing predictions about the result of truth gone viral. So, we’ll see!

  • JF Quackenbush

    I think a lot of the “ZOMG what happened to Obama he just got his clock cleaned” came as a result of disappointment from lefty pundits who don’t like to see certain Romney claims go unchallenged and for whom letting those things go unchallenged is a weakness. This is the kneejerk reaction of an amateur chattering class that has learned how to argue about politics on the messageboards of the internet. In the long run, I think Obama’s strategy of shrugging off the big Romney lies may be an error, but I don’t think it plays as bad in the middle as it does among the highly committed partisan class.

    That said, I think Obama needs a stronger performance in future debates because the big damage I could see happening after this performance is a drop in the enthusiasm among democratic faithful that would serve Romney’s chances in the long run.

  • Joseph

    I had them tied on presentation until the last two minute speeches. The President failed to focus on the camera (us) and appeared to be trying to convince Jim Lehrer instead. Big mistake. Mr. Romney, on the other hand, looked straight at the camera and delivered a crisp, clean, well-written and well-rehearsed speech.

    On the third hand, Romney bullied and lied his way through the debate. I think that’s going to have more negative impact than people think.

    Oh, and Mr. Lehrer needs to retire. He did a truly miserable job as a moderator. That hurt Mr. Obama perceptibly, as he clearly was attempting to play by the rules.

  • Matt

    I think 538 Refugee might be onto something here. Often in the past the challenger has won the debate. Perhaps part of it has to do with the fact that it’s his big moment and he is preparing for it for months while the president has a pretty important day job.

  • 538 Refugee

    Obama has always tried to take the high road and be non-combative. It has worked in the past. We shall see how this plays out. I saw one poll that women seemed to have a negative of Romney overall because he was ‘pushy’.

    Was Obama distant and his mind elsewhere, like on the situation between Turkey and Syria?

  • Spiny Norman

    I wondered if Obama was ill. His body language was lousy, uncharacteristically so.

    • Deanna Smith

      I thought the same. Altitude? It is the mile high city. For a previous smoker that could exert an effect.

    • wheelers cat

      He was brilliant here in 2008. Our altitude hasn’t changed.

  • John Jacobs

    Thanks for answering my question Sam (p.s. I’m West Coast so its not really 1 am :-).

    Seems as if this might put some pressure on your epically contrarian House call.

    This is all about to become so much more fun…

  • Matt

    I didn’t watch it as these debates always just piss me off. From what it sounds like, Obama lost badly. Then again, so did Bush in 2004. I did watch that one. If what everyone who did watch it is right, I’d be surprised if Romney didn’t move the polls a bit. If I listened to MSNBC and Andrew Sullivan I’d assume that Romney takes the lead over the next week. If I listen to you I can at worst expect Romney to eat into the margin a couple points with Obama still the overwhelming favorite to win given Ohio and what not. It will be interesting to see who is right and another good test case for who to listen to in the future.

  • David

    I thought Obama landed some really nice blows but they were subtle, far over most pundits’s heads. Pundits like aggression and drama. I thought Romney was too combative, ran over the moderator too much, wouldn’t look into the camera at the people, always focused on Obama. First time seeing him speak live. Rubbed me the wrong way. Obama looked tired like sitting presidents trying to campaign usually do. His points were well made but he missed a few responses to Romney like the $716 billion comment.

    It won’t change anything. Most people seem to think Kerry ran over Bush in the debates, and how did that work out?

    • Richard Cownie

      I agree. And I vividly remember the first Bush/Kerry debate, when Bush seemed to have prepared about 15 minutes of material for a 90-minute debate, and got whomped. That was a total
      trainwreck for Bush; Obama’s performance last night is not in that class (and Romney is not as good as Kerry, either).

    • xian

      I also think Obama may have given his ad people some new Romney fodder to work with.

  • Steven J, Wangsness

    I hate to admit it, but the Prez got whipped, mostly because he didn’t call Romney on his lies. I hope you’re right about it not making much difference.

  • pechmerle

    I can agree that this event may not move the polls a great distance.

    That still doesn’t mean I have to like Obama’s lackluster performance. I perceive that he came in intending to be low-key, non-confrontational, the reasonable guy in the room — a persona he has often adopted in public. But just looking at it as a debate (and a debater, in another context), I heard so many excellent openings for him that he just let slide. Letting Romney get away with “I never heard of any tax deduction for moving a plant overseas” — how can you possibly do that? A big, fat pitch right down the middle. There just wasn’t any down side to taking an easy swing at that one.

  • Michael

    Glad to see I’m not alone in thinking the debate was A) boring and B) pretty even with Obama looking better in terms of demeanor.

  • Chris Andersen

    If you polled the readership of DailyKOS or the panel on MSNBC you’d probably get a 90-10 split on Romney beating Obama. Yet how many of those people do you think will support Obama any less than they already are?

    So, when the snap polls show Romney only winning by 70-30, a part of me has to think that we are seeing, once again, that proud tradition of liberals setting their hair on fire at the least sign of things may not going their way.

    • Sam Wang

      Agreed on that last point. It does not fill me with respect.

    • Matt McIrvin

      It sounds like the person freaking out the absolute most is Andrew Sullivan, who is not so much a liberal as an Obama conservative. It wouldn’t be the first time, I suppose.

    • xian

      some of this is the whole demeanor thing. as a punch and judy show Romney clearly won. He won the mammal/primate body language contest. Obama partisans (like myself) would have preferred Obama win this, as we already believe he is more correct on logic and facts.

      So, disappointment, but leavened with increased annoyance at Romney’s lies, and working-the-ref petulance, combined with fear of some sort of epic game-changer in trajectory that is extremely unlikely.

  • H Levenson

    I am disappointed that Obama’s performance was as bad as it was. I wonder why the President was not more assertive in countering Romney’s previous comments about the 47% of the electorate he would write off and that Romney was appealing for tonight.
    Somehow the President’s comments seemed more like literary rambling instead of focused responses to specific facts and issues that the was actually a debate with consequences, at least, politically.

    • P G Vaidya

      It is an asymmetric game for Obama. If he were to be overly aggressive, it would bring back (and it is back) the “Dr. Wright” issue, and if he were to stress the case of the 47 percent, they would shout “class warfare”. So, he did OK. There was one report that said that his score on “empathy” increased during the debate. I think Joe Biden is in a better position to be aggressive.

    • Ebenezer Scrooge

      Good point PG. Obama has always been extremely cautious about avoiding “angry black man,” and the Rs have been desperate to pin the label on him. Since he avoids “angry” successfully, he gets the electoral benefit of being a black man: he is extremely hard to feminize, as was done to Kerry and Gore. Not that the wingnuts haven’t been trying, but their “Obama-is-gay” meme hasn’t taken off.

  • JohnJacobs

    Romney very clearly won. It’s amazing how Obama let him get away with things (e.g: did Romney seriously just change his tax plan two hours ago?)

    That being said, I think everyone is overreacting. No one that was going to vote for Obama is changing their minds.

    Your answer to this decides the election Sam: How many undecided voters are there really, and were any of them watching the debate?

    • Richard Cownie

      I would agree that Obama didn’t bring his A-game, but he cornered Romney with some lines that are going to be good over the next week or two, e.g.
      “his big bold idea is – never mind” and “why does he
      keep the details of his plans secret – is it because they’re too good ?”

      Also think Romney’s appearance and demeanor won’t help him at all with women and minorities.
      He’s going to win the white-guy vote – but we always knew that. The insistence on having the last word, the faux outrage when Obama pointed out a lie, the promise to croak Big Bird, pointing out that he knows all about offshore tax breaks -
      all stuff that will resonate badly with the groups
      he needed to win over.

    • badni

      Richard Cownie– FWIW, the first thing my girlfriend said when the debate started was to compliment Mitt’s new hair style and to say it looked more modern. Then she noted that Mitt seemed human so he must have been practicing his facial expressions. She’s a raging liberal of the Republicans-are-evil variety so to hear any positive tone about Mitt was a shock.

      She’s not a swing voter by any stretch, but I did worry that 100% of my female voter focus group pointed to Mitt improving his standing with the ladies.

  • Rex

    Dr. Wang,

    In your findings, to what degree do people switch parties going down the ticket, i.e. how often do people vote for one party at the top of the ticket, and then vote for another(or others) going down?

  • Lee Hostettler

    Romney did well but he did not do well enough to capture enough EV’s to win this thing….at this point Obama would have to do something HUGE( illegal…underhanded…immoral) to flip enough votes to give Romney enough battle ground states to reach 270…..I am more concerned with the races downticket…we will have to watch over the next few weeks…

  • owlofminerva

    The one bright spot for Obama is that he didn’t lose the debate over the economy (the #1 issue). The first half of the debate was a draw about policy details. It was only later when Romney switched gears that Obama failed to counter.

  • Ms. Jay Sheckley

    KENNEDY-NIXON was the first TV election. OBAMA-ROMNEY may be the first social media election. So other than “The Greatest Generation”, already on Social Security, other people, especially the critical demographic of new voters are reviewing the debate with immediate access to this widespread analysis:
    All 90-minutes of the presidential debate, fact-checked http://thkpr.gs/PRdjMW
    If there is another such analysis, I’d like to see it.

  • Joel

    Romney did well, very well given expectations. This helps republican enthusiasm and will have down ticket effects. My analysis, at least.

  • Matt McIrvin

    Sounds like Obama was trying to run out the clock. Most of the left-of-center folk watching wanted him to punch a lot harder, but in preparation he may have reasoned that that involved too much risk. The downside of playing it too safe is the danger to downticket races.

  • Camellia-Kay

    I have to agree that the debate was fairly boring. Both camps are saying their candidate didn’t do as well as expected and the media is trying to sell it as a decisive Romney victory (surely to keep the horserace appealing even as the electoral map hardens). Intrade forum posters were predicting this reception no matter what was actually said at the respective candidates’ podia.

  • Terry

    I don’t think we can have it both ways. Either the first debate matters cognitively and empirically as the previous post seems to suggest or it does not.

    The President, by most accounts, did very poorly tonight; whether by strategy, arrogance, or insufficient preparation.

    I think we will see a narrowing in the battleground state margins and an unnecessary opening for Romney.

    • Sam Wang

      Please read the previous post again. I said (1) debates can be worth 1-2 points and 15-30 EV, (2) that’s not enough for Romney, and (3) they matter because of the downticket effects. Check back in a few weeks and see how all that holds up.

  • Anbruch

    The left blogs I visited thought the President’s performance was very weak. If his supporters have this feeling, my read would be that Romney won the debate fairly decisively. Will it move the polls? Perhaps not much, at least immediately. But I’m going to guess that it softened up his numbers considerably. Those numbers can be firmed up again with a good performance in subsequent debates or further Romney gaffes. But another performance like this and the polls will move.

  • Froggy

    As an Obama supporter, I definitely thought that Romney got the better of the exchange. He was crisper in his answers, and Obama let him mostly have his way on a lot of things — the $716 billion Medicare “cut,” to name one.

    Last weekend I watched the first Kennedy-Romney debate from 1994. Anyone who watched that wouldn’t have been surprised to see Romney get in the last word on every subject, as he did tonight. I would have expected Obama to have been better prepared than he was for this.

    Will it make a difference? Some, but probably not enough — maybe a point or two.

  • H Levenson

    The debate showed how skilled and educated Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in their ability to speak in front of an audience.

    It also illuminated significant differences in their strategies to govern America.

    The debate did nothing to change my vote for whom I will help to elect as President.

  • Matt McIrvin

    I didn’t actually watch the debate, but most of the Democratic livebloggers I’ve been reading think Romney won big. Some of them are really distraught and convinced that Obama’s going to lose now. I might point them here.

  • Ms Jay Sheckley

    shared with the world. moveon.org and thinkprogress did live factchecking

  • Venkat Ranganathan

    Good analysis. It looks like President Obama’s strategy was to get a draw and it seems he largely succeeded