The first presidential debate represents a turning point in the race. Before both parties’ conventions, President Obama had a slight lead, but nothing that could not easily be recouped by one stroke of good fortune for Mr. Romney.
During both conventions, polling was unreliable and subject to bumps in both candidates’ standings from the conventions. However, it is safe to say that enough time has passed beyond both conventions that polling has returned to normal.
The news is not good for Mr. Romney: President Obama is leading in the swing states and his polling is on track to repeat many of his strong performances in 2008. If the election were held today, President Obama would almost certainly win both the popular vote and the Electoral College.
What, then, is Mr. Romney to do? He must focus on two events: the first debate and the September jobs report, due out on Friday. A strong performance in Wednesday’s debate will go a long way toward recapturing a close race. A poor jobs report would also be helpful to Mr. Romney’s position but the impact is less decisive. Mr. Romney cannot do anything to influence the jobs report; accordingly, the positive impact it can have for his campaign is limited. In contrast, a strong performance in the debate can bolster his position and bring him back into a competitive race. Conversely, a poor performance may spell the end for Mr. Romney’s ambitions. This late in the race, it is unlikely that he can recover from a poor debate. This debate truly is sink or swim for the Romney campaign and it remains to be seen whether he will rise to the challenge.
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UPDATE 9:34PM : Obama wants a balanced approach to economic turnaround, Romney thinks we're Spain. "We don't want to go down the road to Spain."
UPDATE 9:43PM : Both candidates are clinging to the idea that their plans are 'basically the same.' I appreciate the warm fuzzies, but that doesn't seem right.
UPDATE 9:45PM : Don't worry everyone, if you're over 65 or NOT 54-55 you don't have to listen. Phew, I'm out.
UPDATE 9:50PM : "Can the two of you agree?" Agree to disagree? Be assertive, someone!
UPDATE 9:54PM : Romney is being mean to Jim Lehr. Shut that down.
UPDATE 10:00PM : Obama is arguing with Jim Lehr about how much time he has left. Poor Jim, everyone is being mean to him.
UPDATE 10:06PM : Obama calls out Romney over his proposed changes to health care. If I may: oh snap!
UPDATE 10:09PM : CLEVELAND Clinic. The time has come to pander to Ohio, everyone.
UPDATE 10:20 PM : Both candidates are talking over each other. Jim does nothing. Why is he here?
UPDATE 10:25PM : You heard it here: Romney wants to sit down with Democratic leaders...every Monday, just like when he was governor. Promises, promises.