The world hardly needs yet another pundit’s reaction to last night’s debate, but here’s something I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen expressed elsewhere: none of the punditry seems to have the slightest effect on the opinions of voters. When you watch a debate, you come away with an impression after about the first half hour or so, and that impression, which seems to be held pretty generally by a wide variety of people, is the one that is reflected in later polling. Nothing anyone says in the spin room or anywhere else seems to make a damned bit of difference.
No amount of Democratic operatives and corrupt media liars saying Mitt Romney was dishonest during the first debate changed what people saw in front of their faces: a sullen, unprepared Obama unable to defend his record against a better, smarter and more experienced opponent. No number of declarations that Joe Biden had “stopped the bleeding,” stopped the bleeding; and no matter how often Republicans applauded Paul Ryan, no one believed he crushed Biden as Biden should have been crushed.
Last night, my sense was pretty much the same as everyone’s: Obama did far better than his first outing; the debate was a tie on impressionistic points; the moderator befouled herself and her profession… and there was a strange after-effect in which the president’s lousy economic record continued to linger in the mind after the TV set was turned off. Go on RealClearPolitics and you’ll see op-eds and blogs with titles like, “A Wowsy-Wowser for Win-Win-Winning Obama,” and “Mitt Drives the Nail into Obama’s Coffin,” but I very much suspect these and other such writings will have exactly no effect and won’t change what people experienced for themselves.
My guess is the debate results will show up as a continued slide in Obama’s poll numbers due to the fact that he’s lousy at being president and the first debate woke everyone up to that fact and this debate did nothing to change it — re-enforced it rather. The question is whether his slide will be quick enough to give Romney the victory by election day.