Both candidates came prepared to fight in the second presidential debate. Obama went for the throat, and appeared to viewers to be a bit more engaged than last time. Romney didn't stop from round one, choosing to again attack the President's failed economic policies.
All told, both sides did what they needed to do in the town hall format debate, and neither gave much ground. In other words, both sides can and will claim victory as a result. Likely, most viewers of the debate will think that it was a draw or small victory for the President. According to CNN, in fact, viewers of the debate gave Obama a 44%-40% advantage over Romney in his performance. Going into the final three weeks, that should provide Obama will somewhat of a lift.
Or will it? CNN is also reporting some of the following numbers with their snap poll:
- Who did the debate make you more likely to vote for? 25% - Obama, 25% - Romney, 48% Neither
- Who seemed to be a stronger leader? 49% - Romney, 46% - Obama
- Who was more likeable? 47% - Obama, 41% - Romney
- Who spent more time attacking his opponent? 49% - Obama, 35% - Romney
- Who cared more about audience members? 44% - Obama, 40% - Romney
- Who answered the questions more directly? 45% - Romney, 43% - Obama
Translation: The polls generally confirmed what we already know about the two candidates. People like Romney on a personal level less than the President Obama, but leadership qualities are questionable and he has some vulnerability there. However, a second round of numbers provide a much more troubling story for Obama in that same CNN/ORC Post-Debate Poll:
- Who would better handle the economy? 58% - Romney, 40% - Obama
- Who would better handle health care? 49% - Romney, 46% - Obama
- Who would better handle taxes? 51% - Romney, 44% - Obama
- Who would better handle the deficit? 59% - Romney, 36% - Obama
Translation: Obama cannot seem to get people to buy the narrative that the economy would be in a worse spot without him. That's problematic for the President who doesn't have much to run on in this election in regards to the economy. 47 million people are on foodstamps. The job market participation rate is the lowest in 30 years. 23 million people out of work. Obama isn't lying when he says 5 million new jobs have been created. Then again, they aren't really new jobs, they are just making up for lost ground. Obama might say that people are in a better place, but it's hard to see that. President Obama cannot hope to see this debate put him on favorable ground when the economy is such a critical point voters are considering.
In other words, the debate tonight was a draw, or even a slight win for Obama. Fine, but it might end up being a hollow victory. More people still see Romney as having a stronger vision in this regard. As a final note, that same CNN/ORC poll is also reporting the following. 61% of those polled say Obama doesn't have a clear plan for the country's problems, compared to just 50% who say the same about Romney.
That doesn't make for a winning debate, let alone for a winning candidacy.