Remember back during the Republican primaries when Newtmentum was predicated on the fantasy of the eventual GOP candidate embarrassing the President on the national debate stage? I thought it was a pretty dumb thing to center a candidacy around. After all, even if you were to suppose that such a thorough debate victory were possible, there have honestly been two debates since World War II that have had a meaningful impact (1960 and 1980). It’d be like acquiring a baseball player because he had a propensity to hit for the cycle – an interesting, sort of productive oddity that wouldn’t make much of a dent in the grand scheme of things. I was hardly alone in this.
It would seem I was wrong.
Look at this poll from the Pew Research Center:
That is showing an insane 12-point swing (from Obama +8 to Romney +4) among likely voters. I can’t recall seeing anything like this, ever. It has Andrew Sullivan completely unhinged:
Maybe if Romney can turn this whole campaign around in 90 minutes, Obama can now do the same. But I doubt it. A sitting president does not recover from being obliterated on substance, style and likability in the first debate and get much of a chance to come back. He has, at a critical moment, deeply depressed his base and his supporters and independents are flocking to Romney in droves.
But it’s not just Pew. Look at these numbers on registered voters from Gallup:
Gallup also notes that roughly 2 in 3 Americans watched the debate (!), and the margins by which they declared Romney the winner have Gallup calling the debate “historic.” A Politico/GWU poll shows a statistical tie with momentum building among the Republican base as it fades with their Democratic counterparts.
It’s still early October, obviously. But it looks as if Mitt Romney took a campaign tactic that has not been a viable weapon for at least 32 years and used it to dramatically alter the Presidential election.