Bear in mind that Chuck Todd is using the WaPo/ABC poll from this morning for part of his analysis, and you can see just how bad things are going for Team Obama. While I agree with Todd on the momentum shift, I’m not as sure it’s recent, but I do think the debate was indeed the big inflection point for the toplines of the polls. Even before that debate, Mitt Romney routinely led among independents in polling outside the margin of error — and in a cycle where Republican enthusiasm outstrips that of the Democrats, that’s a powerful indicator how the race is going:
The Palm Beach Post notes that even Democratic pollsters are seeing post-debate momentum shift toward Romney:
A new Florida poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Mitt Romney edging President Obama in Florida by a 49-to-48 percent margin — a net gain of five points for the Republican nominee since a PPP poll in late September showed Obama with a 50-to-46 percent edge.
The poll shows independent voters breaking toward Romney since the end of September. Romney leads 51-to-43 percent among independents in PPP’s survey of 791 likely voters conducted Friday through Sunday. The poll has a 3.4 percent margin of error. Obama held a 51-to-40 lead among independents a few weeks ago, according to PPP.
“Mitt Romney has the momentum after his strong debate performance last week, but Barack Obama’s still very much in it,” says PPP President Dean Debnam.
I don’t think that Obama has lost the election yet, but there is only three weeks to go now. This is when preference cascades begin to materialize, and usually away from the incumbent, who has had nearly four years to make the case for re-election. Like Todd, I don’t think the subsequent debates are going to make much difference. The key was always going to be the first debate, and whether Romney could make himself an acceptable alternative, and he succeeded far beyond anyone’s predictions.
Update: Reader Justin L says I missed Todd’s point about the debate:
In your Chuck Todd article you mistake which debates he’s talking about; watch the clip again–he’s not saying Obama can’t make it up, he’s saying IF Romney wins the debate tomorrow, Obama will not be able to make it up in the third debate.
Justin’s right; I misunderstood Todd to mean either of the next two debates. I don’t think either candidate will have much room to move the needle tomorrow night, but that will be my topic for tomorrow’s column.