For weeks leading up to the first presidential debate in Denver, many in the liberal commentariat wanted to pretend that the presidential race was all but over and President Barack Obama was cruising to victory.
Liberal New York Times columnist Charles Blow, for example, wrote in a recent column, “No one can predict the result on Election Day — overconfidence could devolve into complacency among Democrats — but, at this point, it’s hard to see a path to victory for Romney.”
This was always dumb analysis, but after Wednesday night’s debate, it’s so dumb that even the most ardent liberal media backers of President Obama can no longer believe it.
By halfway into the debate, viewers were surely hoping for the equivalent of a Little League mercy rule to kick in. Romney pounded away on the president while he hardly fought back. He was listless and weak. There could be no spinning it: President Obama lost and lost bad.
In one evening, Romney may have partially erased the Obama campaign’s effort define him as a rapacious businessman who only cares about rich people. The charge didn’t ring true Wednesday night. Romney came across as a serious man bearing facts.
Romney also came across as a credible president. Standing next to President Obama on stage, he didn’t look small. He looked like he belonged there. You could imagine him sitting in the Oval Office making consequential decisions.
Many fellow pundits were quick to say in the run up to the debates that presidential debates rarely make a big difference. That may be true, until they do. And there is no question that Wednesday night’s debate, which was likely the most watched event of the campaign season thus far, will cause the polls to narrow in Romney’s favor — perhaps significantly so.
A CNN poll taken after the debate of those who watched the debate first told us what was obvious: Mitt Romney won. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they thought Romney won, while just 25 percent said they thought President Obama won (it’s unclear what percentage of those were both deaf and blind, but you have to imagine a large number).
According to CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, “No presidential candidate has topped 60 percent in that question since it was first asked in 1984.”
But more significantly, 35 percent of respondents said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney, compared to only 18 percent who said the same for Obama. That matters with 15 percent of the electorate still persuadable, according to a recent Rasmussen Poll.
Even when everyone was writing Romney off, I thought he was more likely to win the election than Obama, not because I thought he was running a good campaign, but because of the economic climate he was running in. After tonight’s debate, that opinion has hardly changed. The momentum is now in his court.
There’s a month left before voters go to the polls. That’s a long time. Things can change. But the state of the race is clear after Wednesday night, at least to me: advantage Romney