By Dan Hodges/The Telegraph
Barack Obama won last night’s debate. Or to be more precise, Mitt Romney lost it.
That’s obviously not the conventional view of the commentators or pollsters, who gave the GOP candidate a clear win. But that doesn’t matter. He still lost.
There are three reasons why Romney experienced a soft implosion of his already tenuous electoral chances. First, there was no “gotcha moment”. Before the debate every political analyst, be they from the Left or Right, agreed that Romney had to land a knockout blow, which he didn’t.
There was no major presidential gaffe. No glancing at watches, sighing or claiming there has never been any soviet domination of eastern Europe. Crucially, in the new media age, there was no YouTube moment. In fact, the one single moment I suspect most voters will remember from the debate was Barack Obama sending his wife Michelle greetings on their wedding anniversary.
The second problem for Romney was that while he failed to land a knockout blow, he kept piling into him. He was aggressive, too aggressive.
This is Romney’s greatest weakness as a candidate. He lacks compassion. He comes across as one of those big businessman in old Westerns who turns up at the farm and explains to the widow that he needs to buy her land to make way for his new railroad, and if she knows what’s good for her, she’ll take him up on his kind offer. CNN’s post election poll found that two thirds of those who watched thought Romney put in the most effective performance. But only 46 per cent said they found him more likeable than Obama. Not only did Romney not land the knockout blow, he failed to close the empathy gap.
Finally, Romney has fatally shifted the expectation game. In advance of this debate, he was able to talk down his chances of success. This morning, his supporters are ecstatic – just look at my friend and colleague Tim Stanley’s take on the debate – and working themselves up into a frenzy at yet another ‘game-changing’ moment.
Romney will probably enjoy a small boost in the polls. And then the race will settle back down to where it was, which is a relatively tight national poll margin, but an insurmountable lead for Obama in the battleground states.
And when that moment comes, Mitt Romney will have finally run out of road. Because if you remember, we were told that the debates were his last chance. When it becomes clear to him, his campaign and his supporters that last chance has gone, the race will be called.
Denver was a game changer all right. For Barack Obama