Shortly before reading Joseph Campbell yesterday afternoon Pacific Time, I had cut and pasted excerpts from Michael Knox Beran’s post at the Corner cautioning readers not to read too much into the pundits’ reaction to the debate:
No commentator can possibly know, when tonight’s debate ends, which of the two candidates appears in the eyes of a majority of viewers to be the superior one.
Nor will instant polls and focus groups be much more revealing, in part because a person’s immediate reaction to the debate will not necessarily tally with the deeper impression that forms more slowly, after the sensory data have had time to sink in and cohere in whatever mental tribunal ultimate judgments are made.
Read the whole thing. Even if Mitt Romney had dominated the debate, I did not expect any voices in the legacy media to say as much. Thus, I was shocked to see the coverage the debate got on Yahoo! Even Andrew Sullivan faulted Barack Obama on his performance. Over at Joshuapundit, Rob shares Bill Maher’s tweet about Obama’ performance, “I guess he really does need a tele prompter“. Never, blogs Hugh Hewitt, has an incumbent President of the United States “been this badly whupped in a debate.”
Calling the debate a slap down, Bruce Kesler found Romney pummeling “Obama’s generalities. . . with specifics” and telling the Democrat that he was “entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.” (Like Bruce, I also recommend Jennifer Rubin’s analysis of the debate.)
This clearly helps Romney, but there’s no way (yet) to know how much. “This was“, as Jonah Goldberg reminds us, “the first time millions of people ever heard Mitt Romney make a case for himself at any length.” The Republican made a good case for himself while many wavering (and some Obama) voters are still open to supporting him. And he looked, well, “more like a president“.
My sense is that image will matter more than anything and we’ll see both an uptick in Romney’s poll numbers as well as his favorability. In his insightful analysis, Jim Geraghty contends that
. . . the dynamic of the race shifted tonight. If the audience tonight was small, and only some of the remaining undecideds or persuadable voters tuned in, it shifted a little. If the audience was large, and the viewers watching were open to Romney, the dynamic may have shifted a great deal tonight.
Emphasis on that “may” added. His National Review colleague Michael Knox Beran might beg to differ.