Will Romney's debate win be a game changer?

Commentators from both sides of the Atlantic offer sharp analysis on the US election campaign.

Emily Hunt

Emily Hunt looks at the impact last night's debate will have on the race for the presidency.

Polling data and reactions to last night’s debate from friends and former colleagues in the States piled up for me to read first thing this morning. In a CNN/ORC poll, an overwhelming 67% said that Romney won the debate. Romney was impressive in terms of ease in speaking and his quick responses, regardless of what some commentators have flagged as factual errors. The President’s demeanour and defensive attitude told a story, too. The data agrees with commentators on both the left and the right: Romney won.

And while Romney’s debate win is clear, the real question is, does the win matter? In short, the simple answer is no.

The two candidates’ values, goals of governance and ways of tackling the issues of today’s America are so different from each other that it hardly seems possible that the two candidates are running for the same job. Whether by cause of this or by the effect of this, fundamentally, the electorate is already so split into their Red and Blue camps, there is little middle ground to be vying for.

The result is that there simply aren’t enough undecided voters left to shift the game back to Romney on the basis of something as staid and traditional as a debate win. American voters have already decided which way they are going to vote on November 6th. In addition, over 100,000 have already voted and early voting is on-going in several states. For Romney’s handy debate win to have an effect, he would need to shift the sentiment of not just an undecided voter – but an Obama supporter.

Short of a major gaffe, seriously dramatic economic news, or complete landscape changing events, the upward blip that we will see for Romney in the polling into next week will be just that. A blip.

Emily Hunt is director of insights at Edelman Berland, Edelman’s insights & analytics subsidiary. She is a dual US/UK citizen, and has a strong interest in politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Emily has an MA in Political Campaign Management from New York University and started her career as a political operative in the US before moving into polling. You can follow her on Twitter at @emilyinpublic or find out more about her here.

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