Obama Fails to Change the Trajectory of the Race

Normally I like to use Mark Halperin’s write-up because I really respect his work and appreciate the way he smartly puts things on paper even when it is something I don’t want to hear.  His grades for the debate were B- for Obama and C for Romney.  I can live with those grades but I thought his write-up was pretty weak.  He makes a couple good points as you’d expect but his wording and phrasing was overwhelming negative towards Romney.  If you read only the reviews and not he grades you would think he gave Obama a B and Romney a D-.  In light of the fact that his B- grade is the exact same grade he game Obama after the disastrous Denver Debate,  I  have to grudgingly admit this was a poor effort on his part — especially the near hyperbolic words and phrases he uses to describe troubles for Mitt Romney.

One of the better discussions of the debate in my opinion was by Ari Fleisher on CNN who talked about the debate in baseball terms with each debate accounting for 3 innings of a 9 inning game. The blowout first debate for Romney was like a team scoring 5 runs in the first three innings.  I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment which is backed up by every poll, in enthusiastic fundraising numbers as well as through the post-debate despondency on the Left.  So after debate 1 we are looking at a score of Romney 5 Obama 0.

For the second debate with most people scoring it a draw Fleischer said that would be a 0 to 0 outcome over those three innings.  He then conceded you might give Obama 1 run to Romney’s 0 based on some of the snap polls.  I would go with the 2nd scoring and grant Obama a run for representing his case strongly as his base would see it — something he did not do in Denver. At the same time Romney did a good job in areas like forcefully distinguishing his prospective Administration from the Bush years, consistently articulating his focus on job creation as well as remaining appropriately critical of why we should move on from Obama.

Romney didn’t score though because of his fumbling the Libya opportunity.  If he was going to land a knockout blow, that was his opening and it was right there for the taking. We can criticize Candy Crowley for inappropriately interjecting herself there but Romney was already fumbling before she made even more of a mess in that situation.  The facts and severity of the situation in Libya will ultimately overwhelm any debate fallout from the missed opportunity but if Romney were going to add to his momentum and put some runs on this board, this was his moment and he missed it.  It doesn’t set him back but it does keep him from extending the lead.

So I’ll score the second debate Romney 0 Obama 1. If someone wants to make the argument that Obama won this debate to balance out Romney winning the first debate, that may be technically accurate but the two debates were materially different in terms of voter impact.   In our baseball analogy, after 6 innings, the score is Romney 5 Obama 1. Romney still has momentum and growing voter support even if he didn’t augment it in this debate.  You saw this is those same post-debate snap polls where voters overwhelming supported Mitt Romney on issues of the economy, jobs and the deficit.  This is materially important because every Battleground State or National poll says those issues are paramount to a super majorities of voters and Mitt Romney continues to be the run away leader on those issues.  Barack Obama’s inability to move those numbers are why, despite his improved performance, he most likely did not persuade the voters he needs to get over 50% in the polls or dissuade the Romney voters he needs to stay home.

Both candidates came out combative and ready for the fight.  The problem for Barack Obama is the public is ready to replace him as President evidenced by the stubborn consistency of his polling always around 47% support (that is below the necessary 50% threshold). The public saw a Mitt Romney in the first debate who they deemed plausible as President and nothing in this debate did anything to disabuse them of that notion.


  1. Posted October 17, 2012 at 1:44 am | Permalink | Reply

    Ralston’s tweet was dead on…he said he felt sorry for Romney because this is like he was the only republican in an all democrat town hall.

    Obama has done nothing but attack, there is no hope or change or vision for the future. Just a half hearted this was tough, i did some stuff, it has kinda sorta but not really worked but if you give me four more years I will keep trying to make it work. There is no substance. Anyone giving him the win on substance is either a supporter or a leaner already for him.

    Obama wants to hit Romney on his tax return, where his company invested their money and the 47% thing…Polls all show there are non starters for anyone other than the hardcore base. If he is having to fire up his foundational base with that kind of red meat 3 weeks out, that is not a good sign.

    Romney is playing to the undecideds and independents…Obama is still trying to start the engine on the base.

    You will have fewer people watching this one tonight, I’d say in the 50 millions. Even fewer next week. That tells you many have made up their mind and can’t stomach to watch more.

    I’ll admit in 08, you got caught up in Obama. His ideas and presentation were new and exciting and hopeful. This year, he has nothing new. He is like the cranky old man down the street who wants to blame all the problems on those damn kids. These last fours years have beat him down and I don’t think he real heart is in the race. This is purely ego because he doesn’t want to be lumped in with Cater and G H W Bush

    • No Tribe
      Posted October 17, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink | Reply

      I had to mute Obama for a lot of it. Just tired of the repeat spin.

  2. AussieMarcus
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 1:45 am | Permalink | Reply

    Basically the argument seems to be Obama “won” or “tied” because he wasn’t as horribly inept as he was last time.

    But on pretty much all the “who will be a better president” type internals from CNN, Romney won. Who’s better leader, who is better on every issue, who has a vision for the future…..

    So they think Obama did better tonight but that Romney is better overall, I guess.

    But we’ll see how it plays out over the next week….

    • damien
      Posted October 17, 2012 at 2:14 am | Permalink | Reply

      well the cnn poll said obama won 46-39 but then all the issues romney won huge….so figure that one out

      • yong
        Posted October 17, 2012 at 2:45 am | Permalink

        Expectation. Obama did so poorly in first debate that he seems to “alive” here in the 2nd debate. Plus, Obama did talk more like 4 minutes and came off controlling time share and thus victor. Romney won in style and on issues. Romney did not exceed his expectations, though. He could have been tougher on Libiyia issue. So, Obama won on expectation game, but LOST BIG on important issues: Economy, Health, Leadership,etc.

      • William Jefferson
        Posted October 17, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        There’s no inconsistency here. They thought Obama won a debate, but they think Romney has the skills and qualities they want in a President.

  3. yong
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 4:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    1st debate: Romney – A+ Obama D. 2nd Debate- Romney – A-, Obama B-. 2nd debate- Obama was aggressive but lack vision and offer how he will run the country differently. He spent too much attacking. Romney hammered in his 5 point plan, show empathy, clarified his tax plan even more so. He did miss the opportunity on Libyia and loss a point on oil. He drive the GM thing well, though.

  4. yong
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 5:10 am | Permalink | Reply

    He may have miss an opportunity with Libya, but it will be in the media other than Fox News. I suspect more undecided will trust Obama less. Plus, Romney can go at it again next debate.

  5. John Smith
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink | Reply

    Mark “Game Change” Halperin is a Democrat hack

  6. John
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    Talking about the internals of the CNN poll John King said if those numbers that favor Romney by large margins are true then Romney wins the election.

  7. housebroken dad
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t see where he messed up Libya all that much. Yes, he could have hit harder but you have to remember he’s under a little scrutiny because Dem’s have charged him with politicizing the debacle over there. He started out well, speaking solemnly to the person who asked the question and his comments about the ambassador were heartfelt. Then when he was ganged up 2 on 1, he finally mentioned Rice going on the talk shows and stating it was a demonstration but O was talking over him so I’m not sure many people heard him. But with the talking heads discussing it (and further discussing it because of what happened with Crowley) people have a sense that it was handled horribly right from the start. I think Romney did well and won by a slim margin. But of course, since expectations were so low for O, he is perceived as doing better overall. But still, NO SOLUTIONS. NO AGENDA for a 2nd term. People in the focus groups noticed that.

  8. jvnvch
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t see how President Obama helped himself last night with anyone who hasn’t made up his or her mind. I think Romney did. Advantage Romney.

  9. Posted October 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I look at that CNN poll and a few of the focus groups like this….Who won the debate on the idea that idea it is 1 on 1…it is a style competition. Who was the prettier boxer, danced the most, gave a dominating performance. Obama.

    the deeper downs are the now…forget the style, the performance the theatrics….what did you think about what the two guys ACTUALLY SAID? Romney pulled away in most of the categories. It was the same thing we are seeing across the battlegrounds. Obama is losing ground on everything.

    My bet is Obama orders a strike on Libya either sometime late this week or just before the debate to try and wipe that off the table as an issue. I think he will play the Clinton card from 96 when he bombed a tylenol factory to side step impeachment coverage….that will backfire.

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