Yes, Romney’s Debate Victory Does Matter
There have been a number of articles published in the papers and blogs today acknowledging that Governor Romney scored an easily discernible victory last night but wondering if it matters.
My good friend and excellent writer, Doug Mataconis, penned one at Outside the Beltway so I thought I’d answer his question asked in Romney Won The Debate, But Will It Matter?
Now I’m not picking on Doug because his article asks an important question and draws a proper conclusion that the race is far from over for either candidate. Barack Obama has not sealed the deal and last night’s performance in itself will not magically elevate Mitt Romney to victory.
But Romney’s thorough thrashing of Obama is not the real prize, though many supporters are assuredly feeling vindicated and pleased today. The real prize lies in the magic number of 17%, the percentage of undecided or persuadable voters in the swing states and the percentage of people, Scott Rasmussen determined, that consider the debates *very important* to how they will vote.
We’re not going to know the true effects of the debate for several days until complete polling can be done and those polls thoroughly analyzed but we can get a glimpse of the value of Romney’s victory from a CBS Flash-Poll conducted immediately after the debate concluded.
Notwithstanding the topline result of 46% choosing Romney as the winner versus 22% picking Obama, the value is further down in the poll details. Now a flash-poll should never be construed as gospel but they do paint a picture of perception, and in politics perception has a peculiar way of frequently becoming reality.
This is where the Romney victory matters and why it is important.
Delving into the CBS Poll of 22% Democrats, 18% Republicans and 60% Independents but all uncommitted voters we find some *perceptive* gains for Governor Romney.
56% of respondents have a higher opinion of Romney compared to just 13% more for Obama
Romney jumped to a 60%-39% edge on the economy (+6% from the debate)
Romney rose to a 68%-31% edge on the deficit (+2% from the debate)
Romney shot to a 52%-47% edge on taxes (+12% from the debate) and a reversal from Obama previously leading 52%-40%
Romney climbed to a 45%-53% deficit on Medicare (+10% from the debate) from a previous deficit of 35%-56%
These are all perceptions from members of that magic 17% of persuadables that could become a very important reality.
Cares about your needs and problems saw a Romney rise from 30% to 63%
Has strong qualities of leadership saw a Romney rise from 59% to 78%
Has made it clear what he would do if elected saw a Romney rise from 22% to 54%
The doubling of *understands my problems* from 30% to 63% could be the most important perception the poll contains, though 19% and 32% gains in leadership and clarity don’t hurt.
Finally when asked if the debate affected their choice for President, respondents showed a huge relative preference for the Governor. Prior to the debate Obama was favored by 23%, Romney by 22% and 50% were still undecided but after the debate Obama only rose to 25% (+2%) while Romney rose to 34% (+12%) leaving 35% of the respondents still undecided. A clear and impactful move for Romney.
Politics is perception for sure but these new perceptions of Governor Romney as a candidate, and maybe more importantly as a man who can connect with that 17%, cannot be discounted. If these perceptions become realities and form the foundation on which the Romney campaign can build winning momentum, then you better believe his debate victory will have mattered.