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We all know that debate #2 was vitally important.  Even before the debate season started, I have always used the Bush-Kerry 2004 debates as a baseline to understand this election.  In my view, the first Bush-Kerry debate is the only one that I can truly say changed the trajectory of an election from what should have been a fairly comfortable Bush win, to a very narrow victory decided by about 150,000 votes in Ohio.  After the first Obama-Romney debate, it seemed that this election was following that same pattern:  a somewhat comfortable Obama margin had sharply narrowed and we were looking at a dog fight.

In order to win the election, the President had to perform better in debate #2.  I thought that the President would be able to re-energize his supporters at a minimum with a more engaged performance, much like Bush did against Kerry in their second debate in 2004.  Bush didn't win that debate, but he didn't clearly lose it either.  It was enough to keep his base energized to turn out for him on election day.

The President had an opportunity to exceed Bush's performance because he had an opponent with glaring policy and character weaknesses that Kerry did not exhibit.  What the President did from the opening bell last night was to hammer away at Romney's lack of honesty, lack of detail, while providing better, more substantive answers.  He didn't let up and Obama defined Romney as an elitist, dishonest, cold-hearted plutocrat.  Bush never could do that to Kerry.  In that sense, I believe Obama exceeded Bush's performance and there is a good possibility that he will recover the lost ground he ceded after debate #1.

Looking to the final 3 weeks of the campaign, I would make the following observations:

- The remainder of this week (week of 10/14) is very short from a campaigning perspective.  The candidates will be on the trail today and tomorrow, but will need to spend Friday-Sunday doing preparation for Monday's debate.  That takes about 4-5 days out of the campaign.

- I expect debate #3 (foreign policy) to be another heated clash.  If Obama maintains the same level of preparation as he did for debate #2, he should come away with a victory.  Romney hurt himself on Benghazi in a very lasting way, and that hampers his task for debate #3.  Obama displayed a lot of passion and righteous indignation on questions of national security and his role as CIC and Romney will have a tough time dealing with that.  Romney will have to somehow turn the discussion to the fiscal cliff, defense cuts, debt, deficit and jobs, and Obama will have to be alert to not fixate on the specific question, but use the time to attack Romney and defend his own positions (much as he did in debate #2). The result will be pretty close in the snap polls, but as long as Obama gives a spirited performance, his supporters will be happy and remain energized.

- The final 2 weeks of the campaign present advantages for the President.  I don't believe Romney will be able to overtake the President in states that Romney wasn't leading or within the MOE prior to debate #2.  That means that Romney will likely lose Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa.  Early voting in a few of these states suggest that Romney's road was already uphill prior to debate #2.  I also think that Obama's strong performance will result in him gaining points in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Colorado.  Keep in mind that in Virginia and Colorado, Obama was leading in an average of non-GOP polls taken in those states during Romney's best week. Therefore, after debate #2, Obama's margin in VA and CO might actually be closer to 4 points than it is to a tie.

That also means that these 4 states, 3 of which are in the South, will be contested through election day and Romney will have to spend vital resources to win them all.  I doubt he can accomplish that.  In short, we will be playing the last 3 weeks on turf that the GOP absolutely needs to win to marshal an electoral majority.  Our base states look safe.

- The ground game of the Obama campaign plus the better ads and day to day management should also inure to the President's benefit. The Democrats have registration advantages in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia despite a large conservative Republican base of support.  The Democrats have two Senate candidates in VA and FL who are running strong, which suggests high involvement of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents.  These are persuadable voters who are more likely to vote for the President after last night's debate.

I think the President will win the election with over 300 electoral votes, exceeding Bush's performance in 2004.  Last night's debate will be the primary reason why.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    Alternative rock with something to say:

    by khyber900 on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 09:42:13 AM PDT

  •  Gallup is going the wrong way (0+ / 0-)

    Romney up +6 LV +2 RV.

    Hope the shift starts tomorrow...

    The Republican Party is now the sworn enemy of the United States of America.

    Listen to All Over The Place - we play all kinds of music!

    by TheGreatLeapForward on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 10:04:28 AM PDT

  •  Any poll pre-debate #2 is about as relevant (3+ / 0-)

    as any poll released pre-debate #1.

    Alternative rock with something to say:

    by khyber900 on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 10:05:46 AM PDT

  •  well thought out and interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I hope it comes true!

    I think that the third debate present Obama an opportunity to really smack down Romney --- Romney and Ryan both have had their worst moments in the FP sections of the debates.   Obama's record is very strong in FP and Romney scarcely knows what he is talking about. If Obama prepares well, it could be a bloodbath.

    that being said, how will it  move the polls? Probably not that much at such a late stage, but if Romney is really outclassed it could demoralize his supporters at the critical last moment and even push a small number of undecideds into Obama's corner.

    Romney's strategy is obvious:  bring everything back to jobs which is always his best material.  If he's smart, he'll drop all this Benghazi crap and sabre-rattling against Iran, and prep ways to bring every single question back to bitching about  unemployment and saying "I have a plan".

    Obama has to be ready to shoot down the weird pivots Romney will throw out  ("the President's trade policies have cost us X million jobs, I have a plan to fix that...", "tensions between Japan and China are scary, since that's a big market, and the president's failure to lead could lead to destabilization, which will cost us jobs",  "strenthening the embargo against Cuba will bring back jobs", etc).

    Once it's back to "real" FP, Obama should be able to crush Romney.

    •  If it hadn't been for his Libya debacle last night (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I would be certain that Mitt would stick to the "unraveling Middle East policy" meme in the 3rd debate.  And in fact I still think its more than 50-50 he does stick with that, or at least make it one centerpiece along with jobs and Evil China.  It was very much the Karl Rove style turn-your-opponents-strengths-against-them strategy.  Maybe it's even a planned focus of their last-minute ad blitz and they're committed to it now?  (I have no idea what Mitt's ads are saying)

      •  They're not letting go (0+ / 0-)

        Seriously, they are as deluded as they were over Niger's uranium in 2003. They refuse to face facts... their acolytes, including Romney's intern Ryan, are still on this lIbya business.  Everytime they go "there" they get burned.  Well okay, bring on the FP debate and be done with it.  This will not end well for them.

        I vote Democratic because I am a woman with self-respect , who rejects bigotry of all kinds, subscribes to science, believes in universal health care, embraces unions, and endorses smart internationalist foreign policy.

        by Delilah on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 10:54:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Very polite way of saying he's already won (0+ / 0-)

    because Romney has to have OH. Has to. If not then he has to clean sweep the rest of the swing states. Impossible. Obama has OH+NV = 271. So the race IMO is effectively over,  provided the base doesn't freak out again anyway.

    If I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I'd have stuck my ---- in the mashed potatoes! - Paul's Boutique

    by DoctorWho on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 10:20:01 AM PDT

    •  I'm not saying it's over. If Obama were to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dskoe, Supavash

      get complacent for debate #3 and Romney were to be fired up, it could raise doubts that could cost us.

      However, if Obama does well in debate #3, then I do think that  Obama's chances of winning go up substantially.  I do believe we have an advantage in the last 2 weeks and barring any weird debate #3 set back, I think Obama will overperform his poll numbers and win.

      Alternative rock with something to say:

      by khyber900 on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 10:50:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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