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Week in Review: Aftermath of the Debate

October 5, 2012

By Pete Barrett ’15

This past week we saw a new side to Governor Mitt Romney, one that was not afraid to go after the President (on his inability to get things done in his first term), or Big Bird. While Gov. Romney displayed a warmer, more likable presence, President Obama seemed uninterested in sharing a platform with his challenger on the 20th anniversary of his marriage to First Lady Michelle Obama.

CNN reported that 67 % of Americans believe Governor Romney won the first of three presidential debates, relative to only 25 % of Americans who believe President Barack Obama emerged victorious. In the minutes, hours and days following the debate, cable networks ranging from Fox News to MSNBC praised Governor Romney for his presidential demeanor and ability to control the conversation. However they chastised President Obama for his lack of enthusiasm and aptness to call out Governor Romney on his flip flopping on issues.

Earlier in the week Vice President Joe Biden made a controversial remark regarding a middle class that has been buried in the last few years. Comments like that and the one caught on a hidden camera of Governor Romney’s speaking about the 47 % of Americans who feel entitled to government aid were left out of the debate. However, Romney was able to attack President Obama about his inability to get things done in his first term. Not with one line zingers (sans the five sons bit), but with intelligent, respectful banter. Romney was aggressive, but still came off as likable – a tough feat for a challenger debating a favorable incumbent.

But for all the media coverage, the anchors praising or criticizing, the bloggers slamming or congratulating the real victor of Wednesday’s debate, there are two more debates on the way. The election will be decided by the polls, not the media, especially in key battleground states such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

On Thursday night RealClearPolitics.com showed that despite the President’s flat performance, he still leads in those three states. He leads in Ohio by 5.5 points, and by just 2 and 3.5 points in Florida and Virginia respectively, well within the poll’s margin of error. It’s still early though, even for the polls to reflect Wednesday’s debate, and the impact it had will become clearer as the week progresses.  It’s going to have to take more than just one poor showing from President Obama for Gov. Romney to win the crucial independent votes in these swing states. But, the Romney campaign is chipping away.

In Thursday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, political correspondentSara Murray notes that President Obama’s lead is shrinking in two battleground states, Florida and Virginia. Like RealClearPolitics.com, Murray reports that Ohio (a state whose victor usually wins the election) is still favoring Obama by 8 points. However, polls of Florida and Virginia show some interesting trends for the Romney campaign. For example, “Of likely Florida voters 60 years or older, 47% said Mr. Romney would do a better job handling Medicare, compared with 43% who said the president would,” Murray wrote.

Bad news for the Romney campaign is that the pool of voters who have not yet made up their mind about who they will vote for is small and shrinking – just 4% in Ohio, 5% in Virginia and 6% in Florida – but according to Murray, “a substantial shift toward Mr. Romney among independent voters in Florida in the past three weeks suggests that a larger subset remains persuadable.”

Obama now has shifted his campaign to full attack mode, accusing Governor Romney of doubling down on his economic principles. And he looks good doing it. But those speeches are written and are read off a teleprompter. As good an orator as President Obama is, he uh, um, uh, tends[IT1]  to be less skilled in off the cuff or unscripted moments like debates. However, it may not matter. For now, it seems the American people still want to see President Obama work our nation through this time, and it appears as though he may get that opport


 [IT1]I know what he’s going for, but I’m not sure it really works.  I think it may be more effective to spread them out throughout the sentence.  Thoughts?

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