Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Narrative's Changed, but the Song Remains the Same

Mitt Romney won the debate last night because he projected a presidential attitude, seemed to be more interested, and actually strung together answers in clear sentences. Barack Obama was clearly unprepared and stories about his lack of focus on the debates turned out to be true. The right wing media is ecstatic. The left is crestfallen. The narrative has changed.

But it doesn't mean that the election is over, anymore than Romney's September swoon meant that it was over. This debate allowed Mitt to crawl out of the hole he dug himself with his 47% comments (there, I've mentioned it even if the president didn't) and the overall lack of coherent message on the campaign trail. It's probable that his debate performance changes his attitude and his crowd count, but let's think this through a little more specifically.

Romney is still peddling the same Medicare voucher plan, the same tax cuts for the wealthy, the same dangerous foreign policy and the same noxious policies regarding women as he was yesterday afternoon. He's still the same uninspiring politician he's been for his entire career, though he will have a more jaunty step for the next week. The policies he proposed last night will not all of a sudden become more popular as Obama advertising will make sure, and Mitt is still against the auto bailout, which means he'll still likely lose Ohio.

Mitt did himself a great favor in the debate and he was helped by an equal and opposite reaction from the president who did all he could to present a tired, ticked-off image on a day when he could have solidified his advantage and made the other two presidential debates superfluous. Friday's jobs numbers could be the second half of a one-two punch that should have only been one punch. The press will make more of this because, after all, they need eyes on their websites and dollars in their pockets.

We now have a race, but my sense is that it will just be a closer version of the race we had on Wednesday afternoon. Obama still has the lead and he'll likely keep it in the swing states that are critical to his reelection. Let the national polls show a Romney bump (and they will). My focus will be on Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada. If Wisconsin suddenly turns, then it's bad news, but I don't think that will happen. There are two more debates, and if my reading of history is keen, as it sometimes is, Obama can turn himself into the comeback kid who wipes the floor with the rich guy next time they meet.

Yes, the narrative has changed, but the song remains the same.

And really, isn't it about time you followed me? Go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and on Twitter @rigrundfest

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