As for Romney, he went to the left. Romney, just by not appearing to a creepy out of touch Mr. Burns, punctured Obama’s bubble. But he also did something that an operative friend reminded me of. He appeared just like George W. Bush in the 2000 debates, where Bush appeared more moderate and left-wing.
I have no idea if this is true going forward, and the only way to know is to watch the polls over the next few days. If every registered voter watched this debate and made a decision about who to vote for based on this debate, Mitt Romney would win. But who watched the debate? And do people decide based on this debate (or the post-debate spin)? Only Gallup can tell. Still, it’s useful to know what happened, and why, because at the very least, Obama and his team was embarrassed tonight. We’re in an election season, so the press is probably going to turn to this as An Important Moment
From what I can tell, the trends that led Romney to do well in this debate are macro. Obama is not a bad debater, and he was not underprepared. Both Romney and Obama are executing their messaging strategy, it’s just that Romney’s worked, and Obama’s didn’t. Romney is pointing to the bad economy, and Obama is staying likeable and above the fray. Romney and his team believe that they can simply point to a failed economic strategy by the administration, and voters will fire Obama. Obama and his team think that Obama is viewed as a warm person, and they want to emphasize that he can relate to Americans in a way that Romney can’t.