It’s a good question, for a couple of reasons. First, I think we can establish that Mitt Romney has gotten a bounce from his overwhelming debate win on Wednesday, and that it’s not just an outlier result any longer. But the question still exists as to whether this is a “bounce,” as The Week assumes, which will have a parabola impact, or a pivot point in public opinion that will change the race and momentum. In their roundup, The Week quotes three commentators with different perspectives on the matter (including our friend Andrew Malcolm), but let’s let TW simply frame the question here:
A flurry of new polls indicate that Mitt Romney got a lift from hisstrong debate performance last week, pulling roughly even with President Obama nationwide. Romney also appears to have chipped away at or eliminated Obama’s lead in several critical swing states, including Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. Gallup’s latest seven-day tracking poll, for example, showed Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 45 percent among registered voters in the three days leading up to last week’s televised clash; afterward, they were deadlocked at 47 percent apiece. Will Romney’s post-debate bounce be fleeting, or has it fundamentally altered the race?
I’m inclined to think it has fundamentally altered the race, for a few reasons — some of which I predicted in my pre-debate analysis. Romney had his first opportunity to stand on the same stage as Obama as an equal and talk over the heads of the media directly to voters. That would have helped him even if Obama had done better in the debate, by both humanizing Romney while elevating his stature. With Romney clearly and decisively out-debating Obama, it has elevated him perhaps past Obama in stature, a very bad outcome for an incumbent — and a bell that is almost impossible to unring. That’s why I considered the first debate the most important of the three.
Second, the biggest reason (although hardly the only one) that Obama failed so badly was that he has still not articulated any kind of a vision for his second term. Instead, he spent the debate offering a vague stay-the-course argument while attacking Romney’s proposals, which is still to this day the only agenda on the table for the next four years. In order to fix that problem, Obama has to launch a clear vision of how he will change the current economic trajectory in the next four years other than a promise to raise Mitt Romney’s taxes. Instead, he’s still griping about Romney while refusing to explain why he wants another term at all — which lost Friday Night Lights creator and life-long Democrat Buzz Bissinger at The Daily Beast:
At the debate, Romney did not simply act like he wanted to be president. He wants to be president. He showed vigor, and enthusiasm, and excitement, a man who wants to lead. It may all be ephemeral, because most of politics is ephemeral, a cynical means to the end of getting elected. But he also revealed compassion that, during the entirety of this absurdly long march, had never been in evidence before. He recognized the needs of the poor. He recognized the need for regulation.
His tax plan was admittedly mystery meat. But the tag he has lied is unfair. To the contrary, he has recognized that his original proposal is more screwed up than the infield fly rule, not to mention mathematically impossible. So he is modifying it, coming up with a possible alternative in recent weeks that deductions should be capped at $17,000. Even the liberal party boys, like The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, reluctantly admitted in the typical liberal style that it might have merit one of these millennia. I think Romney realizes that lowering the marginal rate to 20 percent will not fly if he is to lower the deficit and make the plan work. And he is hardly the only candidate to assert something during a campaign that will change once in his office. As I recall, Obama vowed to cut the deficit in half.
Democratic supporters offered the usual antidotes to Obama’s debate performance: he was tired from running the country, the mile-high air got to him (which is why Al Gore is better off with the midlife crisis of a beard). But I don’t see Obama spending much time running the country, unless you count his recent appearance on The View, where he was far more animated and charming than during the debate. …
Four years ago, all Obama had to do was speak and everyone swooned. That was four years ago. It is now four years later. He is no longer the chosen one. He is just too cool for school in a country desperate for the infectiousness of rejuvenation.
Romney has it.
Our president no longer does.
Amelia Chasse of Hynes Communications pointed out on Fox and Friends this morning that the reaction over the last few days suggests that Obama and his campaign still haven’t figured this out:
People don’t respect those who offer excuses for bad performance, and Romney made me fail by confusing me isn’t exactly a confidence-building measure for voters choosing the next Leader Of The Free World. Is Obama similarly nonplussed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declarations?
Combine this with the month-long-and-still-continuing debacle of the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi terror attack, and the impression from the debate and its aftermath is that Obama is in way over his head — which is what people concluded about Obama’s economic stewardship a couple of years ago, too. Not only is Obama flailing and drifting, but he seems unaware of the fact that he is flailing and drifting. Unless Obama begins communicating a clear agenda for a second term with a solid explanation of how that will improve over his D- first term, Romney looks like the only adult in the room. And that may turn this from a bounce to a game-changer.
Michael Ramirez puts this succinctly and eloquently, as he always does, in Friday’s editorial cartoon for Investors Business Daily: