The consensus on both sides seems pretty clear: in terms of debating points, Romney won the night. The snap polls say so, left-leaning pundits say so, even kos of Daily Kos says so. I couldn’t watch most of it, but I don’t see much difference of opinion on the question of who brought their “A” game and who didn’t.
That said, a couple of themes are emerging. First – and this is quite important – the same snap poll that shows that Romney won the night by a whopping 67-25 also showed that the favorable/unfavorable numbers did not move for either candidate. If that holds up, it is terrible news for Romney, because he desperately needs to turn those numbers around to have any realistic shot at winning. Romney’s unfavorable rating has consistently exceeded his favorable (while the reverse is true of Obama), and that is a deadly place to be in October. No candidate since at least 1980 has been upside-down in fav/unfav at this point in the race and come out a winner.
Second, part of how Romney did so well is by saying a lot of things that aren’t exactly, you know, true. For example, if you skim down PolitiFact’s twitter feed during the debate, you see an awful lot of instances in which things Romney said didn’t measure up. Here’s another one noting that Romney’s tax plan still doesn’t make any sense after tonight. Even Mr. Centrist, David Gergen, points out that part of what may have thrown Obama “off his game” is that Romney was “flat-out lying.” Whether this will penetrate is hard to say … not many people seem to care much about what the fact-checkers say, and sometimes there are good reasons for that. Nonetheless, Romney supplied Team Obama with some additional ammunition to call him out.
Finally – and this is just delightful – our old friend Eric Fehrnstrom seems to have planted his foot firmly in his mouth in the post-debate spin room. Basically, Fehrnstrom admitted that Romney’s health care plan doesn’t protect people with pre-existing conditions, and that if Romney repeals Obamacare, those folks would be out of luck.
Fehrnstrom said those who currently lack coverage because they have pre-existing conditions would need their states to implement their own laws — like Romney’s own Massachusetts health care law — that ban insurance company from discriminating against sick people.
“We’d like to see states do what Massachusetts did,” Fehrnstrom said. “In Massachusetts we have a ban on pre-existing conditions.”
Wow. So Fehrnstrom is basically saying to folks with pre-existing conditions who don’t live in MA that, once Obamacare is gone, you’re screwed unless your state happens to implement the law that is the basis for Obamacare. That is a big, bad admission by Fehrnstrom.
So, yeah, Romney won the debate. We’ll see how much good it does him. As kos points out, “[i]f debate victories led to electoral victories, we never would’ve had President George W. Bush. And we would’ve had a President Hillary Clinton.”