A flurry of new polls indicate that Mitt Romney got a lift from his strong debate performance last week, pulling roughly even with President Obama nationwide. Romney also appears to have chipped away at or eliminated Obama's lead in several critical swing states, including Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. Gallup's latest seven-day tracking poll, for example, showed Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 45 percent among registered voters in the three days leading up to last week's televised clash; afterward, they were deadlocked at 47 percent apiece. Will Romney's post-debate bounce be fleeting, or has it fundamentally altered the race?

Romney has turned things around: Mitt's "commanding debate performance" didn't just obliterate Obama's polling lead, says Andrew Malcolm at Investor's Business Daily, it also significantly improved his image. Before the debate, 44 percent of voters viewed Romney positively while 51 viewed him negatively. Afterwards, the numbers were 49 percent positive and 48 percent negative. Romney also got a "significant post-debate surge in voter enthusiasm," perhaps the clearest sign the tide has turned.
"Romney surge post-debate overtakes Obama"

Actually, Romney's bounce is already fading: Romney accomplished "an awful lot" for one night, says Nate Silver at The New York Times. He rescued his campaign from "a potential 'death spiral,'" and presented himself as "competent and cool-headed" candidate, inching toward the center without getting much pushback. The day after the showdown he might have stood a 50-50 chance of winning, but, partly due to a strong jobs report, he's slipping back into the role of underdog — if a slightly stronger one.
"Oct. 7: National polls show signs of settling"

Obama lost the momentum, and that matters: Before the debate, Obama "was like a freight train rolling to re-election," says the Booman Tribune, and Romney was "a car accelerating over a cliff." The race has undeniably tightened, and "I'm pretty sure the damage will be lasting and costly because we probably cannot regain the speed and momentum" that was lost. Even if Obama still wins, he won't have the mandate he looked certain to carry out of the election — unless he can turn it around in the remaining two debates.
"Costly loss of momentum"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.