When I want to feel good about how a Republican did in a debate, I consult Hugh Hewitt. When I want an honest evaluation, I check Ann Althouse, Michael Barone and Charles Krauthammer. I like Ann because she’s non-ideological and, in addition, to considering the policy issues the candidates address, she also offers her impressions of how they appear.
And the latter may matter more in how undecided voters react. If my recollection is correct (UP-UPDATE: see UP-UPDATE below), the snap polls after all three debates in 2000 showed Al Gore the winner, but shortly after those debates, the polls started moving in W’s direction.
Comparing the debate to one of those Civil War battles “in which both armies battered each other but neither came out a clear victor and the war went on“, Michael Barone concluded that “on balance Romney came off as more presidential.” Reader Kurt e-mailed me a passage from Ann Althouse’s debate post where she seemed to offer a similar evaluation:
8:23: Romney is able to stay relaxed while dominating. Crowley and Obama both seem cranked up and stressed.
8:25: A question about taxes. Romney is clear and focused. Obama’s over there on the chair, hunkered down, crouching, oddly. Hey, Jaltcoh is live-blogging. Check it out.
8:31: “Governor Romney, I’m sure you have an answer,” Crowley almost snarks. Her bias shows. She prompts Obama, suggesting the substance of the answer. Now, this doesn’t really help Obama. It makes Romney look more dominant, and we get the impression that Obama needs a boost. It’s actually patronizing.
8:34: When Obama speaks, Romney doesn’t go back and sit down. He stands there, eyeing Obama, who seems desperate. Obama yammers quickly in a high, strained voice. I can’t believe this is making the people in the audience feel connected and confident.
Image matters. And on that score, Romney appears to have edged Obama, even if the opinion polls suggest that Obama won it*, but I would note that only a plurality declared him the victor. “The focus groups say Romney won their votes at [the] second debate.” Indeed, Frank Luntz’s “focus group made up mostly of former Obama voters say they now support Mitt Romney.” Perhaps, the same things which registered with Ann registered with them.
The consensus among conservative bloggers & pundits is that the debate is not a game-changer, but then again, they’ve already made up their minds. The focus groups seem more bullish on Mitt Romney.
Perhaps had this been the first debate, it would have made much of a difference.
*UPDATE: RIght after posting this, I was checked Breitbart where I learned both the CNN and CBS polls showing Romney walloping Obama on the economy, by margins of 58-40 and 65-34, respectively. (CNN poll registered voters, CBS polled uncommitted voters.)
UP-UPDATE: My recollection was only partially correct. Snap polls showed Gore winning first debate and winning independents in third. That latter link reported that in “the second debate, . . . viewers picked Bush as the winner by a 16-point margin.”