Tag Archive | Electoral College

Hump Day Report: A Debate Primer

ALOHA, ALL!!!  The first debate is here.  Will Romney finally put Obama away?  Some perspective (Shaka to George for the info):


Most national polls show President Obama with a small lead, but more importantly, with slightly larger leads in most of the key swing states, particularly Ohio (18 electoral votes). The swing state polls, though conducted and publicized less frequently than national polls, are the more crucial to watch since the Electoral College will determine who wins. Consensus polling today indicates that Obama would win the national vote by a few points but win the Electoral College far more decisively.

Many pundits challenge the accuracy of both the national and state polls. All polls are tabulated differently, and none are perfect. We try to look at the consistent trends and common threads among polls, and we value those factors as meaningful in determining an outcome. Over the last few weeks, the trend has favored Obama in the national polls (although within the margin of error) and more decisively in the Electoral College.

Some of these states may experience changes in the next five weeks, but the map  depicts where we believe the race stands now:

Beige – Romney; Blue – Obama; Brown – Undecided


Presidential debates have the potential to be very important to an election outcome, but, historically, they have not always been impactful. The presidential debate in 1980 was an example of an influential debate as Ronald Reagan erased an 8-point deficit in the polls and beat incumbent President Jimmy Carter by 10 points on the basis of a strong debate performance. Since that time, debates have had varying degrees of impact on election outcomes but none has been especially decisive.

Three presidential debates are scheduled between President Obama and Governor Romney, the first occurring on October 3. A debate involving Vice President Biden and Governor Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, will take place on October 11.

Will the debates be impactful? They can be. As the challenger currently behind in the polls, Romney has more to gain in the debates. He is lesser known to the public than Obama, and voters will size him up more than they will assess Obama. Romney must convince more voters that he is a viable alternative to President Obama and that he understands their concerns and anxieties. These personal characteristics are not easy to convey in tightly-choreographed and relatively brief debates, especially since many voters already have a view of Romney that is at odds with his campaign’s preferred perception.

The first debate will be especially important for Romney. More viewers will watch it than the subsequent debates, and for many it may be their first significant exposure to Romney. Without a strong performance, many viewers may tune out the following debates.

As the front-runner, President Obama has more to lose in the debates. He needs to make his appeal to the few undecided voters still remaining, and he must tactfully keep Romney on the defense, as he has for most of the campaign. He doesn’t have to win the debates, but look for him to continue to try to reinforce more voter doubt about Romney. Look for Obama to lower expectations about his debate performances prior to the debates as a tactic to put more pressure on Romney.

(Source:  US Office of Public Policy:  Special Washington Update, September 28, 2012)

And Dick Morris’ thoughts:  


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