Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama Supporters Breathe! Second Debate Thoughts

    Ok Obama supporters, you can now breathe.  The second debate is over and Obama did not pull a repeat of the first performance. Instead, he was much stronger than before.  But what does it all mean?  A few quick thoughts.

Obama probably won slightly on debate points in terms of answering the questions.  He had more specifics.  He had more gotchas and quotable one-lines.  Romney had several near gaffs regarding “binders of women,” references to his retirement portfolio, and fact-checked by Candy Crowley.  His facial expression and body language were not great.  Obama made good eye contact, was aggressive, and offered specific proposals for what he has done and would do.  All this set a contrast from debate one.

What will really matter is the world of perception.  The spin will probably favor Obama and it will negate the first debate bounce for Romney.  Historically presidents lose first debates and come back and win the second.  This happened here too.  Look to see in about 2-3 days what all this means in terms of polling both at the national and swing-state basis. 

But the real impact will be the enthusiasm factor.  Much like the first debate enthused the Romney people the same will be the case with the Obama people now.  They will be more excited and it translates into dollars and votes.

So far Romney and Obama have won the debates they should have won.  Romney should have been his best at the first debate on the economy, Obama on a debate with audience interaction.  Now the critical third debate on foreign policy that usually favors the president.  Here it should help Obama.  Whether foreign policy is the defining issue of the campaign I doubt it.  It is still the economy and it is also about rival personalities.  But perhaps foreign policy is the tie-breaker or perhaps if Syria deteriorates more or Israel does pull an October surprise, then expertise is an issue.

If I were Obama now, I would steal Hilary Clinton’s ad from 2008 and ask who do you trust taking the call at 3 AM.  Given Romney’s lack of foreign policy experience, the ad would be just as devastating against him as it was against Obama in 2008.

But the debate last night also highlighted three other sleeper issues to think about.

Early voting: Up to 40% of the population cane vote before November 6.  Early voting started three weeks ago and some early signs are that the Obama people are doing a much better job winning the early vote.  Early votes seals the deal for a candidate.  This early voting may have negated some Romney bounce and now may make more Obama voter excited to vote early.  Look to see the Obama people make a bigger push to get their people to the polls.

Voter registration: Obama and the Democrats have registered more voters this year than Republicans.  This is the payoff of the ground game that has been Romney’s weak point.  With most voter ID laws weakened or halted in swing states such as Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, this is good news for Democrats.

November 2 unemployment numbers: This is the last Friday before the election and the last report on unemployment before the election.  This date and report could decide the election.  It will dominate the news cycle to the election with a report helping or hurting the president.

My point to above?  The second debate was important but more so is what you do with it.  This is what is yet to bee seen.

I return to the USA for the third debate!

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