Gov. Mitt Romney is back in the race though he still has a long fight to win it. The former Massachusetts governor certainly reversed his long weeks of slide and bumbles since the Republican National Convention with a relatively strong performance in his first presidential debate on Wednesday night against President Barack Obama.
Was it just me, or did the president often appear listless, tired and unfocused? Romney, the older man, came across as far more energetic. His budget numbers still didn’t add up. His policy recommendations remained as vague and unfocused as ever. But an immediate post-debate poll of 500 undecided voters by CBS News suggested he had definitely won the debate and vastly increased the favorable perception of him.
We will have to wait to see how Romney’s genuinely impressive performance affects the overall poll numbers and most especially, the tracking polls in the nine crucial battleground states. But after weeks of throwing away a race it should have been impossible to lose he now has at last some real hope to reverse a month of negative trends.
The debate was certainly a blow on the chin for the Democratic national campaign, but far from a fatal reversal. One of the greatest strengths the Dems have had so far is far more effective and focused television ads. Now their challenge is going to be to try and use that expertise to undercut and stop the favorable perception the governor finally succeeded in projecting to the American people.
Romney’s campaign remains seriously flawed. His budgetary numbers still don’t add up. It is devastating that former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and 1990s Third Party presidential candidate H. Ross Perot have both refused to endorse him as the candidate of budgetary responsibility. His campaign manager Stuart Stevens is still a chaotic joke. His vice- presidential running mate Paul Ryan has so far proven worse than useless and the campaign has wisely kept him gagged and muzzled for weeks. I’ll be looking at both those walking s disaster areas in future posts.
But for now, Romney has enjoyed his best night and most important positive achievement since clinching the Republican presidential nomination. He has shown that the debating skills he used to such effect against a crowded field of GOP hopefuls can also prove a match for the sitting president. He has shown that he can up his game and look impressive against Barack Obama – no small feat in itself. He may even have reversed the dynamics of the race. He can look forward to his next two debates against the president with the relaxed confidence of a boxer who won the first round clearly on points, even though he never came close to putting his opponent down on the canvas.
Will all this make up for Romney’s disastrous “47 percent of Americans” remark? I still think not.
But he’s back in with a chance – No question.
Martin Sieff is an editor at Sputnik, the Russian-owned news organization. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East (2008), Gathering Storm (2014) and Cycles of Change: The Three Great Eras of American History and the Coming Crisis that will Lead to the Fourth (2014). Follow Martin on: @MartinSieff