Romney's five key campaign assumptions

5. Debates change minds. Romney and his aides have Oct. 3, the date of the first debate, circled in red on their calendar. They see it as a potential game-changer. And in the back of their minds, the Carter Reagan debate in October 1980 is what they hope to replicate. Carter was up in the polls going into the contest’s only debate, which was just a week before Election Day. But Carter lost the debate badly, invoking his daughter Amy in talking about nuclear weapons. And Reagan treated Carter like he barely belonged on stage — “There you go again,” was the phrase he used to dismiss Carter. Reagan then closed with the “are you better off” question. Polls showed that viewers judged Reagan to be the clear winner; he went on to trounce Carter. And Romney, who spent last week on debate prep, is hoping for a similar path. But since when is it 1980? In this hyper partisan environment, it’s hard to imagine a post-debate poll that will show a clear winner. Besides, debates are like speeches — overhyped, overanalyzed and rarely game-changers.