President Obama was under immense pressure to win his second debate against GOP challenger Mitt Romney — and the general consensus is that he did. Democrats hailed Obama's much livelier performance as a clear victory, Republicans seemed content to call it a draw, and the post-debate insta-polls were unanimous in declaring Obama the winner, although by narrower margins than Romney's blowout in the first debate. But none of that will matter if Obama's win doesn't translate into a shift in momentum. The Denver debate clearly put wind in Romney's sails and gave him an unprecedented bounce in the polls. Will the Hofstra University smackdown help Obama recover lost ground?
Romney just lost his groove: Obama did well in the debate, but the big story is Romney's "peevish, over-aggressive, and fussily obsessed over the rules" performance, says Joshua Green at Bloomberg. It was nearly as bad as Obama's Denver flop. And when you combine it with Obama's nailing Romney on the hard-right positions he staked in the GOP primaries, "I'd be shocked if most independent and loosely affiliated voters in battleground states didn't come away from this debate impressed and reassured by the president — and newly skeptical (re-skeptical?) of Mitt Romney."
"Mitt Romney's peevish, prickly debate flop"
Obama did nothing to blunt Romney's momentum: "The debate was close," but I'd give the win to Romney, says Stanley Kurtz at National Review. Obama avoided "the crash that would have come from two poor performances in a row," but he needed "an obvious, lopsided victory" to turn the race around. Since he didn't get that, "the fundamental dynamic of the race now favors the challenger." Combine the poor economy, Obama's "less-than-inspiring record" in office, and Romney's presidential debate performances, and it's clear, "narrowly, Romney is now the favorite in this election."
"Slight Romney edge: Momentum continues"
We'll just have to wait and see: It's hard to say if Obama can recover his solid lead in the polls because, honestly, we don't know "the source of Romney's gains following the first debate," says Nate Cohn at The New Republic. If Romney surged because Obama supporters were depressed, the president is in good shape. "But if Romney's gains were a product of a genuine shift in perceptions of Romney's character," not much will change. Overall, "it wouldn't be wise to expect a big shift in the polls," and the smart money has Obama landing somewhere "in a narrow band between his post-debate 47 percent and his pre-debate 49 percent." In other words, hang on for a tight race.
"The debate probably won't move the polls very much"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Pope Francis' American problem
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- 7 enduring lessons from It's a Wonderful Life
Subscribe to the Week