The essential message of the Romney campaign has been: If you’re economically frustrated, don’t ask questions — just vote the incumbent out. It’s not necessarily a bad strategy, but for it to work, Romney needs to meet a basic threshold of acceptability to swing voters. And it’s possible that he simply failed at this seemingly elementary task for six months — until he finally broke through with his glib, confident performance in Denver two weeks ago. After that debate, Romney finally made the gains in likability that have eluded him all year, perhaps a signal that he was finally reaching the “good enough” standard he’s been striving for. Steve Kornacki
While supporters are euphoric about Obama's improved packaging last night, it's unlikely that Obama will return to where he was before the first debate. Romney's gains from the previous debate were not based so much on Obama's poor performance as they were on Romney's good one. Before the first debate people who were looking to "fire" Obama couldn't justify giving the job to a clown, and Romney established that he wasn't one. Whether he's telling the truth doesn't matter. He presented himself as a viable alternative.
I thought that the panel of Ohio undecideds on MSNBC last night was a good indicator of how this will probably play out. Except for two, all of them thought the debate was a tie, and most were inclined to vote for Romney. When one of the women who said she was still undecided but leaning toward Romney was asked if it mattered that Romney didn't seem to think it was important for women to get equal pay for equal work, she said the more important thing is to create jobs.
I doubt that arguing with her about whether in fact Romney is more capable of doing that would get you very far; I suspect she's one of those who have wanted to fire Obama all along and now see a way to do it, and she is not going to change her mind because Obama was feistier last night. Romney's bounce since the first debate is based on his having established himself as a non-clown for voters like this woman. For people like her, Obama's positions or rhetorical effectiveness don't matter. She wants to fire him, and like most Americans the only way to do that is to vote Republican, which in her world is not a crazy thing to do.
I would like to fire Obama, too. But in my world voting Republican is about the craziest thing a person can do.The problem is not so much that Obama is so bad--he is--but that Romney is so much worse and that we live in a country in which half of its citizens is somehow capable of thinking of him as the better alternative.
It really shouldn't be close, but I think this election will continue to be a coin toss, with Obama finding a way to win in the electoral college.