If Obama Loses, Blame the Debates

Before the first presidential debate, it was easy to say that the face-offs usually don’t matter that much. One had to go back to 1976, 1980, and 1984 to find examples of a debate having a material effect on a presidential election.

But that first debate earlier this month—specifically, Mitt Romney’s strong performance and President Obama’s weak one—had an impact that we are still seeing, even after the incumbent “won” the next two debates, if the instant polls are to be believed. …

A strong performance in that first debate would have probably closed the sale for Obama. Instead, his lackluster showing shifted a bunch of voters who had seemed to be drifting gradually in his direction back into neutral, with some reversing course and moving into Romney’s column. [cont.]

Charlie Cook