Obama's Missing Bounce

Wait a minute: Wasn’t President Obama supposed to get a generous boost in the polls from his masterly comeback performance on Tuesday night? A counter-bounce to the one Romney got from Round One? If so, it’s been awfully slow in coming. The main polling headline in recent days  sent Democrats right back into a depressive spiral: Gallup’s weekly tracking poll, out on Thursday, showed the Republican leading nationally by his biggest margin yet—seven points. The swing states remain much the same, with Obama clinging to narrow leads in most. So what gives? 

If Obama fails to get much or any post-debate bounce, you can blame it at least in part on the power couple of new media: Republican spin and instant journalism. Long before the debate was over, the right was busy making it all about the moderator, Candy Crowley, and her perceived bias against Romney. (The Prospect's Paul Waldman shot this downdecisively.) They’d been warning of the threat this partisan Bolshevik from CNN posed for days—and getting all the liberal sites to pick up on it. The TPMs and HuffPos need instant copy, just the same as the Daily Callers and Drudges. So hey: Let’s all just write about the same things from violently different viewpoints! Who cares if it has nothing to do with the presidential candidates? 

The next thing drowning out substantive content of the debate was the inconsequential dust-up over Benghazi. The length of time it took the administration to be clear that this was a terrorist attack—to use the words—was seized on by the right and by Romney, though it backfired during the debate when he brought it up. And since this kind of small-change kerfuffle—rather than serious questions about Libya policy or anti-terror efforts, say—is what passes for a foreign-policy issue in the blogosphere, it’s been blown up into a Thing of Significance even in the left-leaning media.

Last but not least, the thing that did the most to drown out what was actually said and promised at the debate: Binders! Because Romney left a word out of his story about recruiting women to work in his administration, the whole world was giffing and tweeting and arting riffs on binders and women before the debate was over. 

The result: Ask most of America, and certainly most of the punditsphere, what Tuesday’s debate revealed. The answer, most likely, will go like this: Oh, something about Mitt Romney and women in binders. Obama may have won, but that’s what most people really remember. It was a collaborative effort by the folks who want to help Romney by changing the subject, and by those who want to re-elect Obama but can’t resist the right wing’s red-meat distractions. Even a debate that none other than George Will said was “immeasurably the best” presidential encounter we’ve ever seen has been quickly forgotten in the world of right-wing spin and left-wing blogs.

So They Say

“I mean, he’s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping, we’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through. I think it’s called ‘Romnesia.' ... And if you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you’ve made over the six years you’ve been running for president, here’s the good news: Obamacare covers preexisting conditions. We can fix you up. We’ve got a cure."

Barack Obama, speaking today at George Mason University in Virginia

Daily Meme: Debate Cliffhangers

  • Monday marks the last presidential debate of the 2012 election season. We've all shared zingers, boring Dodd-Frank discussions, lethargic presidents, lethargic moderators, spicy moderators, thirsty vice-presidential candidates, and much binder angst
  • However, with the domestic-policy round of the debates officially wrapped up, we're feeling a bit like Lost fans after the series finale. We have so many questions left unanswered!
  • Like the climate. Talking about how much you love clean coal, contrary to your beliefs, does not set environmentalists's hearts aflutter.
  • LBGT issues have also gone unmentioned. But is that actually a good thing?
  • Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, however, is up to debating anyone on gay rights who's willing.
  • Housing was brought up briefly, but not given space to breathe equal to itsimportance to the economy.
  • And Social Security, a favorite conversation-ender in electoral campaigns, hasn't come up either.
  • It's also unlikely that we'll learn whether either Romney and Obama has read Fifty Shades of Grey, a question apparently only suitable for Senate debates.
  • Other women's issues, like equal pay and contraception, did come up during the town hall debate, but Fox News's Megyn Kelly wrote off talking about such things as "obvious pandering." Got to save the "lady issues" for the "Sadie Hawkins debate."

What We're Writing

  • Paul Waldman reveals that gun owners are in a win-win scenario under an Obama presidency.
  • Abby Rapoport unpacks the battle behind Georgia's ballot initiative on charter schools.

What We're Reading

  • Obama and Romney both picked up swing-state newspaper endorsements today.
  • The Onion, on the other hand, endorsed John Edwards for president
  • Noam Scheiber profiles Tagg Romney, the most Mitt-like of the Romney boys.
  • XKCD finds fault with sweeping generalizations in presidential election coverage.
  • "It’s a damn shame that the Democrats are stuck in a Groundhog Day campaign where instead of hitting on Andie MacDowell we have to call Mitt Romney a fraud, but that’s partisan politics and that’s this campaign."
  • Adam Gopnik points out that the shocking turns of this year's baseball playoffs are more similar to how presidential elections unfold than we care to admit.
  • Mitt Romney must have saved all his best zingers for the Al Smith dinner last night.

Poll of the Day

A new survey from Pew shows that while Catholic and non-religiously affiliated Latinos are very much in the Obama camp, evangelical Latinos are far less wedded to one party. Fifty percent support Obama, while 39 percent support Romney—a far smaller gap than the one that persists in non-religious Latinos's political preference, with 83 percent favoring Obama.

For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.

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