I must admit that the debate took an unexpected turn for me tonight. While I fully expected Obama to come out in the way in which he did. Romney was the larger surprise for me. He came out for the kill tonight at a moment in the race that things were in a dead heat and trending his direction as it was and he decided to take a gamble. This strategy could have worked beautifully and may end up working to his advantage in the long run. However, I did not see the reason for taking the gamble and worry that he could have been much better served to play it slightly safer and make Obama look like the desperate one who saw his job slipping away. Instead I thought they both came across as desperate at times. I honestly feel like this debate did more to turn voters off then to engage them in the race. Past debate polls show this was clearly the case among undecided voters. Both candidates were clearly going for their own party bases once again, yet in the end Romney seemed much more aggressive in going for the all import independent voter.
Their were times in the debate that I thought both candidates fared extremely well and others that they both took huge hits. The story of the entire debate and I also felt like it was the biggest turning point of the night was the issue of Libya. I was thrilled when it was brought up and even liked how the initial exchanges went. If things were to have ended right there then the turning point would have never came and we may very well be talking about Romney scoring more points and post debate polls favoring Romney. Then the unthinkable happened...Romney accused Obama of something that was 100% true, but he...God forbid...said "act of terror", rather then "a terrorist act". Thus driving the story like of the night that what Romney said was 100% false. However, this is not really what drove the attention. You see there was another person in the debate hall who literally changed the course of the debate...none other then the moderator. Who true to form threw out the rules handed to her and blatantly did what the debate commission said was not allowed. Not only did she ask numerous follow up questions, but she decided to score the biggest punch of the night against Romney. She immediately came to the rescue of Obama and knew that Romney had made a slight wording error in his accusation. Thus she told Romney that he was wrong and therefore, the whole issue and I would tend to say the whole debate turned. It became a horrifying and embarrassing moment for Romney. I can already hear the liberals contending that she went on to challenge Obama's facts as well. Here is the problem...no one was listening at that moment because of the intensity of the moment and the eruption of cheers from the audience. I know that I missed it entirely all I could feel was my heart thumping, because of the magnitude of the moment and the applause of the audience for the moderator fact checking a candidate.
In fairness, Romney was responsible for how he responded to this moment and the direction in which he took the follow up. He could have done two things after the initial exchanges that would have been much better. First, he could have dropped it entirely and settle for a slight jab that Obama had to take and did so willingly. But, he was going for broke and came away broke. He could have also drove home the larger point rather then the finer points that people disregard anyway. He could have asked why then did you claim for a week afterwords that the attack came as a result of a video? Why did you claim that there were demonstrations in the streets before the attack when facts show the opposite?
After all the above criticisms it would be easy for people to think that I am viewing the race as over and Obama coming out victorious. But, there seems to be great evidence that this truly was not the case. While both scientific polls from CNN and CBS gave a 7 point edge to Obama I am not so sure that he actually helped his case tonight. As I have stated numerous times all the nonsense of who won the debate is pointless. All that matters is the question, "Did this debate tonight influence your vote and if so, who for?" This is what is giving me the most hope as a conservative. The follow up questions from the CNN debate among registered voters. 33% of whom was democrats, 33% republicans, and 34% independents. Of the three specific areas of who people thought would do better on the economy, taxes, and the deficit; all three areas went to Romney. Romney was also seen as the stronger leader after the debate. In fact even in the CBS poll when people were asked who would do a better job on the economy. A overwhelming 65% said Romney and only 34% Obama. Then the most important question, "Who did this debate influence you to vote for?" 25% Romney, 25% Obama, 50% Neither or the debate had no influence on their vote.
The thing about this debate that drives a projections person like me crazy is the how unpredictable the aftermath of this debate is and how it will influence the electorate. I wish we could fast forward a couple days to get a sense for who really won the debate tonight according to polls and polling trends. Is it possible that Romney's bold strategy backfires and ends up costing him any hope of the election? Possible, but not likely. Is it possible that this strategy continues the momentum for Romney and gives him the election. Possible, but not likely. So what is likely after this debate? No one knows, not even political prognosticators.