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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Strong Win Puts Obama Back on Track

Both national polls that were taken immediately following last night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University show President Obama besting Romney by 7 percent. A CNN/ORC poll indicates that 46 percent of voters who watched the debate said that the president won, while 39 percent said Romney won (and the sample in the poll was about 8 points more Republican than polls taken among all Americans this year).
In a CBS News instant poll taken right after the debate, 37 percent of “uncommitted” voters said the president won, 30 percent gave Romney the edge, and 33 percent said it was a tie. Although the CBS poll gave Romney a sizable edge with respect to managing the economy, it’s hard to pinpoint anything the GOP nominee said that was especially persuasive in terms of his economic policy.
A snap poll by Public Policy Polling in swing state of Colorado gave President Obama a 48-44 edge, while CO Independents said that the President won by 58-36 percent.
For those who want a detailed point-by-point review of the debate in print as well as video, The New York Times has an interactive transcript of the Hempstead debate with a dynamic fact-checking sidebar.
Probably the most noteworthy screw-up of the evening was Governor Romney’s ‘Benghazi boomerang,’ in which he launched a badly-botched ‘gotcha’ ploy to portray the president as distorting his description of the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans as “an act of terror.” When moderator Candy Crowley quickly fact-checked Romney’s allegation and determined that the president was correct — that he did indeed call it ‘an act of terror’ at that time — Romney appeared reckless, desperate and embarrassed.
Earlier in the exchange, President Obama’s strongest moment came when he looked the challenger squarely in the eye and delivered a withering put-down of Romney’s cheesy attempt to politicize a tragedy at a moment that called for bipartisan unity in condemning terrorist violence. “Governor Romney put out a press release trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.”
(Dems who want to get up to speed on the politics of the Benghazi tragedy should check out James Heffernan’s HuffPo post, “Benghazi and Republican Hypocrisy.”)
Obama also scored sharply in highlighting Romney’s investments in companies that are “pioneers of outsourcing to China,” and added, “Governor Romney, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.” He also stung Romney for Republican plans to voucherize Medicare and the GOP nominee’s support for “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants. I thought Romney also fumbled his defense of his ‘let Detroit go bankrupt’ policy.
Romney’s best zinger was repeatedly noting that the number of women living in poverty has increased substantially during the Obama administration. Alert voters know, however, that the comparison suffers from using 2008 statistics, since the effects of the Bush meltdown reverberated well into the Obama administration.
Other than that, my guess is that Romney’s overbearing attitude towards moderator Candy Crowley — the first women moderator of a presidential debate in 20 years — who had to straighten him out several times, bordered on arrogance and did not play well with many women. There are reasons why Romney is not infrequently likened to an obnoxious boss. President Obama, on the other hand, struck the right tone, it seemed to me, in terms of being both assertive and respectful.
Democrats can rest assured that President Obama is back in top form — I don’t recall him ever doing better in a presidential debate. No telling at this point whether or not he will get a nice bump in national polls as a result, but it seems reasonable to expect a point or two shifting in his direction.
The final debate next Monday, October 22nd, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL will focus on foreign policy, and Romney will be back with new soundbites and zingers on the Benghazi attack, Iran and trade with China. The president’s solid performance last night indicates that he will be ready to defend and attack as needed.

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