Andrew Sullivan is quite agitated over the recent Pew Poll numbers which put Romney ahead. Without a doubt, Romney put a substantial dent in Obama’s lead. But there is no need to fret just yet.
A few things.
First, how Sullivan extrapolates the complete self destruction of the Obama campaign from one poll is strange. Yes, it shows Obama losing his lead amongst women and shows voters becoming more comfortable with faux Romney, who transformed in ninety minutes from a “severe conservative” to a middle class crusader. But it is one poll, and other post-debate polls still show Obama ahead by one to two points.
Second, polls which track people’s reaction the day or two after the debate are of course going to reflect the public’s strong initial reaction to the debate. Obama took a drubbing, and anyone who watched it surely had a visceral reaction to it, one way or another.
Third, Sullivan tepidly suggests that Obama embrace Simpson-Bowles to curtail the damage. Running to the right will not help Obama, especially when Romney just did so well running to the left last week. A cornerstone of the Simpson-Bowles proposal is the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. It will not go well for Obama when, during the next debate, Romney claims he wants to “protect” the deduction and the middle class while Obama wants to gut it by taking away its biggest deduction.
Fourth, Sullivan does not think that exposing Romney as a cheat and a liar will be convincing enough in round two or three to stop the bleeding. I completely disagree. Obama does not need to scream at the top of his lungs that Romney is a liar (leave that to Biden), or even destroy or clearly defeat Romney. Instead, he needs to calmly and coolly dismantle Romney’s lies with facts, and then clearly and concisely contrast his own proposals with Romney’s nonsense. And it is nonsense at this point–Romney’s platform is completely incoherent. Just take the preexisting conditions item. He is against forcing coverage of them before the debate, for it during the debate, and then his campaign tells the press after the debate that he is actually still against it.
Fifth, Sullivan seems to think Obama’s performance was worse than Bush’s first debate performance against Kerry in 2004. What is he talking about? Bush’s brain and everything that came out of his mouth was mush that entire debate. Yes, Obama was horrible, but he was not incomprehensible and he did not walk away looking as dumb as a rock, as Bush did.
Finally, it is foolish to doubt the Pew polling results or methodology, but nobody should be so quick to issue judgement based on one poll, especially while other polling done at the same time show dramatically different results. The Pew Poll is the canary in the coal mine, and not the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Public sentiment is extremely volatile right now. We just went from a solid Obama lead with an organized and impressive convention to within the margin of error after a confused and disappointing debate performance–with Romney achieving the exact opposite results. Let things settle a bit before we start to truly panic!