Now that the debates are over, it’s time to set the stage for the final stretch of the campaign. Nov. 6 happens in two weeks and what do we know now that we didn’t know three weeks ago before the debates even happened?
1. Mitt Romney has a chance to win this election though it is still south of an even 50-50 chance. The first debate allowed people to see Romney as more than a caricature painted by the Obama campaign or his former Republican rivals. Romney was able to position himself alongside Obama, as opposed to trying to set himself apart from other Republicans.
2. President Obama is severely weakened by the economy, and he has no other accomplishments to fall back onto. The economy has not met expectations, and voters are not buying the argument that the economy is doing ‘well enough considering the hole we were in four years ago’ mindset. It shows a lingering faith in the strength of a free market that MORE people were not disillusioned by the events of 2008. Romney has played to this faith much better than Obama has.
3. None of the things that President Obama has done (e.g. ending the war in Afghanistan, passing ObamaCare, the spending bills in TARP and the stimulus) have gained him any support during the campaign. What were thought to be major successes either paled in comparison to the continuing weakness of the economy or provided Obama no credit for these accomplishments except as failures.
4. Attempts to paint the current economy as a shared burden with the Bush administration or a Republican Congress have not been convincing to voters. Though voters may agree that the Bush administration or the recalcitrant Republican Congress are partially at fault, this doesn’t mean voters are willing to give Obama another term. He has to give the voters something to vote for but all he is giving them is something to vote against: Governor Romney.
5. Women voters are becoming more relevant as they are increasingly becoming heads of household, not just for single mothers but also as the primary wage earners within many family types. Many now see Republican initiatives from the head-of-household standpoint rather than the more traditional standpoint of ‘women’s issues’ such as abortion and equal pay, which usually advantage Democrats.
The debates made this campaign a dead heat, though it is President Obama’s race to lose. If he loses, it will be a sign that American voters are willing to give each side a chance.