Romney came out knowing exactly what he was there to accomplish and Obama was, as far as I can tell, playing "prevent defense" where he tried to get through the whole thing without giving up a sound-bite. He more or less did--but that may not matter.
The betting markets have gone from 20% Romney victory to 31%, a +11 gain. Significant--but if it stops there it's not the knock-out punch that some people were hoping for.
On the other hand, it's definitely the opening salvo or a whole new race.
- Old Narrative: The Press Is In The Tank For Obama. New Narrative: The Press Likes A Winner. Even MSNBC called it for Romney. Presumably when the polls show an up-tick for Romney they'll be less skewed this time around.
- No One Knows What The Hell They're Talking About: Polls show that the points of the debate--I'd say the "fine points" but there was nothing "fine" about it--it was 90-minutes of wonk-fest--were lost on most people. I know two watchers who fell asleep and one who went to get something to eat. Yes, that's not good (for Romney) but it may not matter. The optics were great for Romney: Obama looking tired did more damage (IMO) than people being unable to disentangle the numbers or who who's plan says what.
- Twitter Wins ... Again: I'll admit to being a bit unhappy with the Twitter-Dominance since (a) where I was watching I didn't get good signal and (b) I wasn't sure what feeds I ought to be watching. Votizen.com had a great Twitter feed from only-registered-voters. I didn't know about that until well during the debate. I had an iPhone only so I was having a hard time switching around ... and Twitter didn't do a good job of helping me figure out what I should be watching. So I feel like there was a whole twitter-sphere that I missed. That said, the running commentary was ... value added--necessary even. So I guess I'm just chaffing under the boot of our new Twitter overlords.
- Where Was This Guy Six Months Ago??: David Frum noted that Debate-Romney was his-kind-of-Republican. Presumably Romney 2.0 (is it 3.0? 4.0?) will be rolled out now running the same play-book as much as possible. He may have gotten pinned down on a few things (Obama did a decent job of hitting him with vouchers) but he has more room to maneuver now and I presume he'll use it. But regardless, I think it's clear this guy would not be down in the polls. This Romney would be winning handily (at least against THAT Obama).
- The Moderator ... Was Good. Conservatives were poised to rail against the moderation--and, indeed, Jim Lehrer got "walked all over." However (a) he didn't ask gotcha questions--they were, to my mind quite fair and (b) who wants to hear the moderator talk? He cut people off a few times--but mostly the candidates got to speak their piece--they got to address each other, even if they sometimes refused to (Obama more than Romney).
Obviously the question is "how much will this move the polls." Obviously the answer is "we don't know." Kerry won the first Bush debate and he didn't win the election but things were different there--and will continue to be different until Nov 6th.
Romney's real problem is Ohio--which, as of last night, was polling deep blue. If Romney can't turn things around there he can still win but he has to run the table. That's hard--and even an InTrade 35% chance of victory isn't the position he wants to be in.
My call? I'm going to assume tonight won Romney Florida (if not the actual state, some combination of approximately 30 EV). If he can hold it, it gives him a breather--but he needs to expand on that to overcome Ohio. While it's possible this might move the dial in Ohio, I think it's unlikely--the "swing voters" probably loved Romney for this and there might be some hold-out "I'm-Not-Voting" guys who are giving Romney a second look--but I suspect in Ohio the decisions are largely made.
Here is a potential Romney-Wins map without Ohio (538.com):
|That's Cutting It Close (Note NH and NV in the Red)|
Here's the map as of today (Pollster.com)
|NH, NV are Deep Blue--Needs IA and CO Too.|
Assuming that Romney can win every yellow state (VA, NC, FL) he still needs to pull NV and NH plus the light-blue in order to win. In other words, if the map doesn't change significantly and OH doesn't come home to Romney? The election could be called in the first hour if he doesn't win NH (that's over-stating it--but note the bars on the Win-Map: see how close that is?). If he fails in VA, for example, goodbye.
This does NOT mean Romney has lost--last night changed the game--but the degree to which it changed things is indeterminate. So we'll watch over the next 2 weeks.