Oct 2012 23

by ChrisSick

The final debate, the final days, and all the horror that these things entail.

You know that feeling you sometimes get, like someone is slowly pushing an ice pick into your forebrain through your temple?


Maybe it’s just me.

This campaign is almost over, now, and if the signs I’m getting from my pounding head are any indication, I’m clearly ready for it to be. Luckily, tonight is the last debate I had to stay up late watching and then writing about. Judging by my Twitter feed, and the various blogs and news websites I follow to get a sense of the media narrative, I’m not the only one who seems to give a much bigger shit about that than who actually won the debate.

If you’re curious, I’m pretty sure it was Obama, mainly because Fox News declared it was a tie and that’s usually a pretty reliable sign that the Democrat won.

More seriously, CBS just released their first snap poll flashing across my Twitter feed, indicating that the President won their survey by a massive, thirty-point margin (53% – 33% – 24% undecided). Just judging by a quick glance around the internets, it looks like this is now the quickly congealing media narrative — Obama won this debate.

In fact, I was struck most by how listless Romney seemed in comparison to previous debate performances. It was as though Ed Gillespie told him his job tonight was not to attack, but to focus on looking presidential. So mostly, he didn’t go after Obama as hard as he had previously, and just smirked a lot.

And agreed. A lot. In fact, both men agreed, with Obama praising previous policy positions Romney had staked out, only to then highlight how Romney had shifted away from them in the primary and general. Romney agreed with the President’s specific policies only to pivot away to attacks on vague and airy concerns about projecting weakness instead of strength, and apologies.

And after reading that paragraph you aren’t thinking of the line “and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom” just go ahead and picture it in your head. The whole thing was a lot like that.

When the dust settles, beyond the instant reaction, the bigger questions that come out of tonight will be how it affects the polls heading into the final two weeks. Given the short span of time between the last debate and tonight, and the overall volatility of the race, a clear consensus never emerged of what — if any — effect last week’s debate had on the electoral race.

Just today, Real Clear Politics average of polling opened with a 0.2% lead for Obama, that became a tie, then a 0.4% lead for Romney as new polling data came in throughout the day. At no point over the last three days has any candidate lead by more than half-a-point.

Fivethirtyeight, on the other hand, is showing Obama regaining ground very slowly, but steadily, now giving him a 69% chance to win the election. That’s up significantly from the immediate reaction after the debacle in Denver, but much reduced from the point when the prediction was edging towards a 90% certainty.

One of the most interesting polling results — widely touted by Republicans — from the previous debate was that, although Obama won, voters shifted towards thinking Romney was better suited to handle the economy and the Federal budget. Combined with the messiness of the polls in the wake of the Long Island debate, it’s hard to see what the President necessarily won by winning.

If the previous debates have taught us anything, it’s that the media narrative following the debate is going to be more important than the actual debate. This is an important topic that’ll see deeper consideration in later posts starting this week. These last two weeks will grind out, as the candidates go back to stump speeches and hold as many events as they possibly can in the final days. We might even get lucky and hear some more ridiculous stories about how badly members of Romney’s family want to beat up the President.

As in any election, though, the most interesting day is the next one. The President won tonight, and if the media narrative shapes up the way it looks like it’s headed right now, he may see a bounce that could sustain him all the way up to a win on Election Day. But given where his numbers were just thirty days ago compared to where they are now, I’m reminded of William Gibson talking about how he would feel now if he were to meet his younger self:

“I’d buy him a drink, but I don’t know if I’d loan him any money.”

Barack Obama will probably still be your President three weeks from now, but the getting there stopped being any fun quite some time ago. Which is usually a sign that it’s time to go to bed.

Meme @DellCam

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