100 Day Sprint: Obama's firewall revisited

Mitt Romney is, at long last, doing everything just right.

He steamrolled the president in the first debate, managed to punch his way through a jobs report that probably would have been a coffin nail a couple of weeks ago, and is trying to regain the high ground on foreign policy.

This is also the moment when the conservative media barrage is peaking.  There are currently three right-of-center political films in major release, Super PACs are shoveling money into ad campaigns in the battleground states, and Fox News and Drudge are pulling out all the stops.

There are also signs that Republican excitement is also revved up again, after suffering through the Democratic convention, and through the heretofore lackluster Romney campaign.

So now the question:  Is Barack Obama's "big blue wall" in jeopardy of crumbling?

Looking at the latest polls, I'd say the answer is a guarded Yes.  I think it's clear that Obama's astonishingly weak — and I think weak is the right word — performance in that debate placed him in serious peril.

The reason why is all about narratives.  For months, Republicans worked assiduously to characterize Obama as the second coming of Jimmy Carter.  Obama batted away those charges, in part by appearing fairly ruthless and energized on the campaign trail.

But during that debate, Obama's demeanor fit neatly into all the worst stereotypes of Carter.  Dull, soft, muddled and again that painful word:  weak.

There are two unknowns now:  First, is Obama's firewall high enough to hold off the Romney surge?  Second, can Obama recover?

The answer to the first question is, to borrow from the Magic 8 Ball, "try back later."

We've seen the Republican flirt with substantial leads in Florida and Virginia, but Obama appears to be hanging on to his advantage in Ohio.  He also appears to be above water in Iowa and Wisconsin.

The big danger for Obama is that he may have deflated his margin sufficiently that superior conservative enthusiasm could give Romney surprise wins in places where the Democrat holds a narrow polling lead.

But as things stand now, even with the latest, Romney-friendly surveys, Obama ekes out a win.  We'll see in the days ahead how this evolves.

Which leads us to the second question:  Can the president recover?  I think it's safe to say that Obama is no Jimmy Carter.  I expect some serious slugging in the days ahead, beginning with the Biden-Ryan debate.  Obama also has plenty of campaign cash.

That might slow Romney's momentum.

But the truth is that once a narrative is established, it's tough to turn it around.  (That Romney pulled it off with that debate is a testament to just how great a performance he turned in.)

Right now, for the first time in the 2012 campaign, I'd say the overall dynamic of the race is even-steven, and maybe even favors Mitt Romney by a whisker.

So bottom line:  If in the next week the Republicans can "tip" Ohio and Wisconsin, the Democrats may be faced with an election that's running away from them.

On the other hand, if those states settle back toward Obama, the debate bump may be remembered as Romney's high water mark.

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72 Responses to “100 Day Sprint: Obama's firewall revisited”

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  1. mervel says:

    I thought electorally; Romney had to run the table, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, is this no longer true?

    I think Romney will win a couple of those ( Virginia, Florida) , but according to earlier analysis that should not matter.

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  2. Paul says:

    Mervel, I agree. The talk is now all about the overll polls. What is the point? I think it is always important to remember that most media outlets need to keep you engaged at all cost.

    I am watching the Frontline on the president and Romney now. It should be good. Right now they are going over the sleazy ads that Ted Kennedy ran against Romney. Brutal.

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  3. Paul says:

    Mervel, I just checked the Ohio polls. Romney is 4 points back, that is in the margin of error, that is a pretty big bounce even there.

    Still watching Frontline. Mitt looks just like his father. Genes are a funny thing!

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  4. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The thing is Jimmy Carter was right about a lot of things. He was careful no to entangle us in a war in Afghanistan which Reagan did; an act that led to Osama bin Laden, 9/11, and the "longest war" in American history.

    Carter instituted CAFE standards for the auto industry, which would have been better off to have embraced the standards than to have fought them. Carter even put solar panels on the White House which Reagan removed.

    Carter was seen as weak because he approved a bold rescue mission in Iran which ended in disaster but led to the sorts of nimble Delta Force and Seal Team 6 that we have today. Also, Carter's image suffered from the severe interest rate escalation that was used to reset the economy that eventually recovered under Reagan but not because of Reagan's actions.

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  5. Larry says:

    So, Carter was really misunderstood and all the great things that happened during and after the Reagan presidency were his (Carter's) doing? WOW! Tell me more: I want to hear how Jimmy Carter led us to victory in the Cold War.

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  6. Paul says:

    You read today about the Taliban shooting a 14 year old girl and you have to wonder about where they're coming from. I suppose that is Reagan's fault but to say they sound evil as GB has been criticized for labeling them seems pretty accurate. If she gets out of the hospital they said they would try and kill her again. What is the deal? What a mess.

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  7. scratchy says:

    Obama should watch this video before the next debate:


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  8. Gary says:

    I don't hear those bugle taps for Mitt that were being played a little over a week ago. This election always was Obama's to loose.

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  9. JDM says:

    Hehehe. The king has no clothes. Never did.

    It's finally becoming obvious to the most devoted wanna-beee hope-and-changers.

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  10. Newt says:

    Scratchy, that Granholm video was amazing. I've already forwarded it. If Obama had been 1/5 as effective and she is in it, the campaigns would be effectively over now.

    Nate Silver http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/ still has Obama with a 71. something % edge, down from 80% a week ago, but still substantial. Brian Mann is good, but Nate Silver is God, in terms of election forecasts. The one reed I cling to.

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  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Once again Larry misrepresents the things I say. Is that how civil conversation is supposed to work?

    But I'm game to carry on a discussion even with a person whose motives and words cannot be trusted.

    "I want to hear how Jimmy Carter led us to victory in the Cold War."

    I dont make the claim that Carter led us to victory in the Cold War, why do you insinuate that I do? Are you once again bearing false witness? But I will point out that Mikhail Gorbachev was really a great hero in ending the Cold War at great personal risk.

    And NOBODY won the Cold War. Both sides lost. We are still paying the cost in huge military budgets, deep deficits and debt, numerous conflicts which are still being tamped down world-wide – the war in Afghanistan being only one of them, and numerous terrorist groups that were financed and trained by one side or the other that still operate in many places in the world.

    Let's not forget Reagan's great contribution of Oliver North and his crew who (if I remember correctly) sold drugs to buy weapons to sell to Iran which was fighting our ally in Iraq Saddam Hussein who we were supplying weapons of mass destruction. We supplied weapons to both sides of a war that killed hundreds of thousands in the Middle East.

    Why do they hate us?

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  12. Larry says:

    Well, the Granholm video is certainly impressive, but everyone should remember that it is one thing to make promises (as Obama did in 2008) and quite another thing to deliver (which he has not done). For all his rhetoric and good intentions, the yield from his philosophy and policy has been disappointing. Economic performance is abysmal and our international enemies are running wild. Granholm suggests the President return to his 2008 persona but it's too late. The American people are coming to the realization that empty promises won't sustain us for another four years. Recently Obama looks like even he has realized the awful truth about himself: he didn't get the job done.

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  13. Larry says:

    Now that you've intimated that I'm a liar I suppose that I could reply by making snide comments about your intelligence, but I don't think I will. Your version of history speaks for itself.

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  14. Peter Hahn says:

    Knuck is on the money about Carter. A sandstorm and Paul Volker killing inflation by raising interest rates made Carter look bad, but both were acts of courage on Carter's part. Then there were the hostages. The Iranians wanted to make Carter look bad. They thought that Reagan would be better for them.

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  15. Newt says:

    Larry, not that it matters to you, but

    1. The demonstrable facts are that Obama took over at a time when policies of the previous administration had put us in the biggest economic hole since 1933. Most of Obama's promises were made before this situation was fully unrolled, and it only peaked right before the general election. Many of his election promises, therefore, had to be jettisoned or delayed to deal with the economic emergency.

    2. While I agree with you, for, no doubt exactly opposite reasons, that Obama failed to institute policies that would more swiftly economic recovery, these policies did save the banking system, staunch the economic hemmorrhaging, preserve Detroit and about 1,000,000 jobs. Given this, plus the state of the stock market, and the fact that corporations are sitting on billions of profits, how can you possibly say that the economic situation is abysmal? Unemployment is bad, but improving, sure, but "economic performance is abysmal?"
    REALLY ??????????????????

    As for for our international enemies running wild, just who would that be? The guys who attacked the Libyan consulate, some of them are in the slammer now (arrested in Turkey) and others will probably be with Allah soon enough, along with any innocent civilians who happen to standing around them at the time.
    Who else do you have in mind?

    The huge irony, here, is that Romney, until last week, was bragging about restoring the domestic and international policies, there by throwing us back into the pit, that you say Obama has not done enough to get us out of.

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  16. Newt says:

    re Carter, also bear in mind that he made the mistake of telling the truth to American people about the energy situation , while Reagan told them the usual happy Republican BS about all the oil we would ever need because American "free enterprise" (i.e., socialism for the oil companies) would always make things better, and forget about conservation or alternative fuels. And Americans, being what they are, chose the smiling, reassuring liar over the honest, somewhat fitful, truth teller.

    Reagan defenders, now please tell us how his policies have gotten us all that cheap, American-made gas we all are enjoying. Had we followed Carter, things would be different, and much better.

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  17. Paul says:

    After watching the whole Frontline show on Obama and Romney I was left with the impression that both men have some very good qualities and they have some flaws. They appear to be human beings, a bit of a different impression than you get from most of the media. Neither one of them appears to be as extreme as we here sometimes describe them. I was left with the impression that either man is well fit to be president.

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  18. Paul says:

    I also got the impression that "journalism" has ruined politics and politicians. Part of our constitution that was supposed to make the country stronger and more free seems to be having the opposite effect.

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  19. Gary says:

    Paul: "I also got the impression that "journalism" has ruined politics" I completely agree with that statement. They have enormous power and it is frequently abused. Reconizing the problem is easy, the hard part is coming up with solutions. I am a real advocate for "media literacy" starting at a very early age.

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  20. Larry says:

    I don't know what amazes me more, the Jimmy Carter rehab or the Barack Obama excuse-making going on here. Is your ideology so important that you need to resort to the "big lie" in order to sustain it? Obama isn't the only president to face a crisis at the beginning of his term but he seems to be the only one whose failure is excused because of it.

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  21. Larry says:

    "NOBODY won the Cold War"

    How did that work out for the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc?

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  22. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – Jimmy Carter doesnt need a rehab. – thats the point. You Conservative/Repubs like to refer to Jimmy Carter's failed presidency. Thats your thing. He failed to get re-elected. So what? Dont forget – most of us liberals dont particularly like Reagan's presidency. He did lots of stupid things (Iran-contra for example), and his "winning the cold war" was just good luck – he increased military spending so much that in trying to compete, the Soviets spent themselves into the grave.

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  23. Larry says:

    I could never forget that Liberals/Democrats despise Reagan; your reference to his Cold War victory as "good luck" is all the reminder I need. No matter what failures Democratic presidents produce, it's always someone else's fault or there's a good excuse for it. Whenever a Republican succeeds it's always a coincidence or the result of policies instituted by Democrats.

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  24. I remember a few weeks ago, a regional public radio journalist expresses scorn at the idea that the presidential race was competitive. Certainly an experience political observer should have known that a month is a long time in politics.

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  25. Paul says:

    "was just good luck – he increased military spending so much that in trying to compete, the Soviets spent themselves into the grave"

    Peter wasn't that the plan. When Khrushchev said he would "bury us" he did not me literally he meant economically. Instead we did it them.

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  26. Brian Mann says:

    Brian (MOFY…) –

    Oh, zap! Seriously, though – I respond snarkily because your depiction of my analysis is completely inaccurate.

    I expressed no scorn. I didn't mock. I didn't express sarcasm.

    I merely sorted through the facts of the campaign and gave my best reading on the state of the campaign.

    I also wrote an essay just last week offering some thoughts about how Romney could, in fact, make this race competitive again.

    I will acknowledge, however, that I completely missed the possibility that Barack Obama would essentially punt on an entire presidential debate in front of 70 million people.

    One of the central premises of my analysis has been that Team Obama has been aggressive almost to a fault.

    For their candidate to suddenly show up empty-handed to a gunfight? No question — I didn't see that coming.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    "So, Carter was really misunderstood and all the great things that happened during and after the Reagan presidency were his (Carter's) doing?"

    The above is clearly a radical misrepresentation of what I wrote. I think it speaks for itself in terms of whether you lie or not.

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  28. Larry says:

    How can a question I asked be construed as a misrepresentation of what you wrote? If you have an answer, give it. Stop trying to be polite, clever and insulting all at the same time; you're not that good at any of them.

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  29. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Bain & Company worked with Russian oligarchs to push cancer sticks. Nice guys.


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  30. Paul says:

    "But I will point out that Mikhail Gorbachev was really a great hero in ending the Cold War at great personal risk. "

    I agree. As General Lee was in ending the civil war and Emperor Hirohito was in ending the second world war. Once you have lost someone has to have the guts to call it quits.

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  31. Paul says:

    It is interesting that this poll shows more enthusiasm to vote now with Republicans instead of Democrats.

    This was taken prior to the debate.

    It is funny. something like 60-80% say they are likely to vote. Yeah right!


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  32. Walker says:

    For the record, Real Clear Politics has moved Pennsylvania into the toss-up category, reducing Obama's electoral college lead to 231 to 181.

    [Let the crowing begin.]

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  33. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul and Larry – If Reagan was consciously trying to break the Soviet Union by tricking them into spending so much on their military that their empire would collapse, then he deserves more credit than he got – maybe even a Nobel Peace prize. But there is no evidence of that. The technique hasnt worked anywhere else (e.g North Korea or Iran).

    Khrushchev certainly thought he would out-economy us (and failed miserably of course).

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  34. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    The Soviet Union collapsed for several reasons. Many have argued that it was ultimately the sharp and sustained drop in the price of crude oil, the soviet Union's only source of revenue at the time, that had the greatest effect…..But your mileage may vary.

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  35. Mervel says:

    Oh who cares about Carter and Reagan that was 33 years ago and very different times. I don't know who's fault was what, if anyone, I do know that the late 70's were not great times in the US, likely Carter was in the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe he was the wrong person for that time? I do admire him in general although I also disagree with some of his ideas and how his presidency was conducted.

    But back to this story. If Romney wins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado, can he win the White House? I don't think he will win Ohio or Pennsylvania.

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  36. Larry says:

    Interesting essay on Ronald reagan and his role in the end of the Cold War.


    It includes the following, which speaks directly to the idiotic notion that our victory was somehow due to "good luck" or trickery.

    "That Reagan had combined a serious analysis of Soviet systemic weaknesses with a fairly coherent strategy of squeeze and pressure is not, I think, in doubt."

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  37. Larry says:

    Who cares? I do and I am sure that I am joined by anyone with a rudimentary grasp of history, particularly after reading the nonsense posted here, specifically KHL's post of 9:52 PM last night.

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  38. Brian M: I was wrong. It was actually in earlier August, before the conventions, when you mused, “But I'm starting to wonder whether journalists are overplaying the idea that there is a real horse race here at all.” Of course there was always a horse race, especially three months before Election Day, double especially before the conventions and debates. If all it took was one rough (but hardly catastrophic) 90 minutes for the president to eliminate most of the gap, then the gap was never really that significant to begin with. It’s a warning for observers to not be a slave to the polls, especially too early.

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  39. Paul says:

    "Khrushchev certainly thought he would out-economy us (and failed miserably of course)."

    This is very true. He failed because we kept the heat on and he had to spend more on arms. That creamed their economy, and in the face of impending economic doom they had to capitulate.

    From the Washington Post:

    "The Soviets felt they couldn't keep up with such technology, Augustine said, and came to believe that Reagan would spend more on weapons than they could ever match — pushing them to effectively surrender in the Cold War."

    The fact is that presidents get to take credit for stuff that happened on their watch. The policy of out spending and out arming the soviets was clearly a premeditated move by the Regan administration. It seems like Reagan deserves some credit for all the outcomes of that policy.

    It is also interesting to note that during this unprecedented military buildup not only did we "win" the cold war (or however you want to characterize it) but we managed to spend over a decade without getting involved in any other wars.

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  40. JDM says:

    Brian Mann "For their candidate to suddenly show up empty-handed to a gunfight? No question — I didn't see that coming."

    Quite an admission.

    How does one show up empty-handed to a debate? Empty-headed, maybe?

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  41. Mervel says:

    Pope John Paul II and Margerat Thatcher had a good bit to do with the fall of the Soviet Union, along with the very important role of Ronald Reagan and and an unsustainable totalitarian system. In the end people want to be free, we see this in Syria today and I think at some point people in China are going to finally get freedom.

    I consider Reagan a great President, one of a kind, like all of our great presidents, one of a kind individuals who rise above politics. Reagan can certainly be credited with a good portion of ending one of the most dangerous periods not just the US, but the earth has ever faced.

    But it was still a unique period of time with unique challenges, I don't think everything is always just transferable between generations, its not that simple.

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  42. Mervel says:

    I do not believe Carter would have or could have pulled anything like that off so in that regard I am very very happy for my family and for our country that he lost.

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  43. Pete Klein says:

    Some things are never brought here to discuss but you wish they were, such as the Taliban shooting the girl who wants an education.
    Hearing that story made me wish someone in government would argue for a policy to never arrest but always kill the Taliban.
    If you really must arrest them, then the first thing that should be done is shave their beards, strip them naked and kick them out in the street to be shot by anyone so in the mood.
    These aren't men. They are freaks.
    As to Romney, isn't it obvious by now that he will be for one thing until he is against the thing he was for. Obviously, he will say whatever he thinks will get him elected. He just wants to be president in the worst way. All those who ran against him in the primaries know this is true. His record as a governor and now as a candidate proves it is true.

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  44. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Brian Mann:
    "For their candidate to suddenly show up empty-handed to a gunfight? "

    Is it necessary to use such violent rhetoric?

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  45. Newt says:

    A lot of things contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

    I think the main reason was that they stopped believing in their own system, and lacked the will to defend it. After 70 years ruling Russia, and 45 years ruling Eastern Europe, they, especially elites like Gorbachev.
    They were hated in the lands they ruled, and got tired of it, and when Poland, Hungary, Czechoslavakia, and finally East Germany rose up peacefully to install democratic governments, the Russians lacked the will to try and crush them once again.

    Lots of people deserve credit, starting with Truman and the flyers of the Berlin Airlift and the Berliners who refused to cave in, through the people who finally tore down the Berlin Wall. Mostly, the people of Eastern Europe themselves. Reagan did his part,. it was not decisive, or close to it.

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  46. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    From Wikipedia:

    "In contrast to his controversial domestic reforms, Gorbachev was largely hailed in the West for his 'New Thinking' in foreign affairs. During his tenure, he sought to improve relations and trade with the West by reducing Cold War tensions. He established close relationships with several Western leaders, such as West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—who famously remarked: "I like Mr. Gorbachev; we can do business together."[27]"

    Also look up Perestroika and Glasnost. And I will repeat that Gorbachov was a true hero in opening the Soviet Union to new ideas which led, in large measure, to the end of the Soviet Union. Reagan and Thatcher along with many others were involved but nobody faced the kind of personal risk that Gorbachev did.

    For those who care to understand history it is worth reading up on Him.

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  47. Mervel says:

    He never got the credit he deserved.

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  48. dbw says:

    The visuals for Obama were terrible at the debate. I listened and didn't think he did that bad. I can see why people might think that what they did after seeing the still photos, and watching some of the video. Something isn't right about that whole situation. I am wondering if there something unrelated had happened last Wed. With a month to go there is a lot of time and a lot can happen. Polling seems to be returning toward the trajectory of this race. Gallup poll of registered voters is back to where it was last week 50-45 with the new Likely voter poll showing a tie. The favorable/ unfavorable ratings from ABC for Obama this week are 55/44 and Gallup was 53/42, which seems to be counter intuitive in light of Obama's weak performance. Despite his strong performance, Romney also reinforced the narrative that he keeps changing his positions.

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  49. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul: "I was left with the impression that either man is well fit to be president."

    I don't think it is a question of who is fit to be President. I think many people are fit. The question is about the direction our next President will take the country. Who will be the person to select the next Supreme Court Justice? Which way will we take the economy? How will we deal with international affairs?

    There should be much less emphasis on personality, silly gaffes, and slips of the tongue. We should focus much less on the way a candidate looks and much more on the nuts and bolts of issues. Unfortunately the American electorate seems to be more focussed on who "won" the debate which apparently is not a function of having facts on their side. Or, as one of my Facebook friends asked, "who one the debate?"

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  50. Larry says:

    It continues to amaze me (although it really shouldn't at this point) that the hatred of Ronald Reagan is so deep among some posters here that they would give Gorbachev the credit for engineering his own demise. Think about that for a minute.

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