Friday, October 05, 2012

Election 2012: Debate 1 Update

His side had led the contest throughout the spring and summer. He had been confident of victory. Early this week, some troubling signs began to emerge, and then on Wednesday, disaster. Poor play put his prospects, and his team's, in grave doubt.

But enough about Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers. There was also this year's first Presidential debate on Wednesday. And unlike the Rangers, who face a Wild Card Thunderdome tonight in Arlington (two teams enter, one team leaves), President Obama has two more debates to go. Panic is unwarranted at this point.

Just about all the observers awarded the night to Mitt Romney, and justly so. His style and delivery were outstanding. And it may well be that Romney's "October Surprise" will turn out to be his sudden, heretofore unannounced tack to the center starting with the first debate. This Mitt Romney didn't look like a far-right Tea Party lunatic. This is the Mitt Romney that convinced a majority of Massachusetts voters to elect him Governor. He's also the Mitt Romney that's been mostly AWOL for the last eighteen months, while his body double has been courting the fanatics of the hard right for all he's worth. And that brings up an interesting point ... just how will his hard-right base react to this slide to the center? Isn't that what they were afraid of all along? We'll just have to see how this plays out over the next few weeks.

The Big Day is just over one month away.

And now, the numbers. As usual, our data comes from Intrade, from FiveThirtyEight, and from Pollster. All data current as of late Friday afternoon.

From Intrade:

Barack Obama (D): 67.3%, 317 EV (+9.6%, +32 EV)
Mitt Romney (R): 32.7%, 230 EV (-9.2%, -17 EV)

From FiveThirtyEight:

Barack Obama (D): 84.9%, 317.7 EV (+5.8%, +3.5 EV)
Mitt Romney (R): 15.1%, 220.3 EV (-5.2%, -3.5 EV)

From Pollster:

Strong D: 251 (+40)
Lean D: 39 (+3)
Tossup: 57 (-43)
Lean R: 0 (-16)
Strong R: 191 (+16)

On the one hand, the numbers tell a pretty encouraging story for Team Obama. His post-convention bounce has legs. He's made ground on every indicator we watch since the DNC closed up shop. But ... Intrade had him at nearly six-to-one on Monday. His performance Wednesday hurt him. Not seriously, not yet, but another one or two like it could put him in serious trouble.

Interesting point: Intrade's EV totals are converging on FiveThirtyEight's EV totals. If you remember, last time around, this happened about three weeks out, and were within one or two of the actual totals. Historically, the debates haven't really changed the trajectory of a race much, but this one may break the mold ... all the same, 317-230 is beginning to look pretty solid.

What Romney Must Do: Stay on this target and fire for effect. The pivot to the center is what John McCain utterly failed to do last time around. It's vital to look sane and Presidential in the remaining two debates, and equally vital for Paul Ryan to look non-maniacal in the VP debate next week. It's also vital to look and sound more centrist than during the primary campaign. It looks like Mitt Romney understands this, which will make this an interesting scrum indeed.

What Obama Must Do: One shanked debate does not a disaster make, but two could. He has got to do better week after next, and he needs to avoid unforced errors as well. When they next meet, he has got to look relaxed, confident, and on top of his game. He's the incumbent, and the economy is improving. But he can still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, either through inattention or through mistakes.

And The Winner Is... As bad as his week's been, Intrade still has Obama as a 2-1 favorite for re-election. I like those odds. I sure wouldn't go any higher at this point in the game. But I'd go up to 310 for the over/under.

Remember, it's just about early-voting time, depending on where you live. Vote early, and vote often!

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