Presidential Debate Polls Declare Obama the Winner


12:33am update:

Props to David Graham-Caso for posting this, which reminded me of my article on the future of candidates - driven to be authentic because of the instant feedback on the Internet. Now, thanks for tuning in...I'm off to sleep!

12am update:

Do post-debate polls matter?  They do and they don't.  They don't because they don't accurately reflect voters who haven't already been swayed -- the undecideds. And they do because polls have a behavioral effect on voters. Meaning: when there is a consensus behind an opinion, people are swayed by its popularity. Thus, polls in response to debates can sway voters (not the debates themselves).  This is why debates are still important - more so now, than ever.

Before the debate began, I wrote about how Obama needed to be the best Obama...ever (scroll down to read the analysis). He needed to outperform Romney and 2008 Obama on their best days to make this debate matter and bring the momentum back in his favor. 

Did he do so? No.

Did he win the debate? Yes. 

What I admittedly failed to account for was the perception of change in Obama by just winning in polls.  Yes he still needed to be the best Obama ever, but by pulling out a win in the polls, Obama swung the pendulum to his side.  

He broke through the debate, clarified his policies, put Romney on the defensive and appeared presidential. This won him the debate and a week of positive reporting.

The real question is: can Obama keep it up?


11:42 pm EST update:

CBS News reports in their instant-poll that Obama wins the debate over Romney.

OBAMA: 37%


TIE: 33%

(Margin of Error: 4 pts.)

10:42 pm EST update:

Audience at the Paley Center comes out with the winner of tonight's debate:

Obama: 82%

Romney: 8%

10:40pm EST update:

Barack Obama has his moment to prove his case.  He goes into his well-rehearsed stump speech that closes the debate out well for him.

Closing screen shot is of Obama shaking hands with the audience and smiling while Romney awkwardly smirks and walks towards the camera.



10:15pm ET update:

This was the moment.  Remember it. This was the moment when not only did President Obama came out looking presidential, but moderator and journalist, Candy Crowley corrected Mitt Romney on the Libya attacks making him look weak, inauthentic and not compassionate.

10:06pm ET update:

Obama is doing a better job explaining his immigration policy in contrast to Romney's by incorporating his daughter.  Need to do more of this.  He needs to breathe, look at Loraine and connect.

Poor Candy Crowley.  Romney is ignoring her lead, even after she humanizes it by saying: "See all these people in this audience? They're here to ask you questions."

What that shows the audience? It shows them that he is more interested in proving a point and "beating Obama" than in respecting the audience that is there to see him. 

10:02pm ET update:

Here's some fact checking on the automotive debate from

Romney uses his arsenal of words: #foodstamps and #healthcare 

Romney (in the process of talking over a woman moderator) tells a rambling story about "this one time I had to deal with a woman...yada yada."

Women in the audience made a lound *gasp* in response to his confusing story. 

Simply put, Romney should've said: "I know strong women.  My mom ran for US Senate! I've always supported women and their rights and my track record as Governor shows this."

Instead, well, I really don't understand what he was trying to say.  So, he failed.


Obama is coming off more connected and warmer than Romney, but that is not his test.  He must out-perform 2008 Obama.  Romney is starting to get into his confusing tax policy, when Obama should jump in with a story and engage with this audience.  He should tell stories from the trail and how former Republican voters decided to support him after seeing their taxes go down -- and how they could use that money to pay their mortgage. 

Stop debating policy. Counter with an analogy.



Great visual wording from Obama: "We've built a pipeline that can wrap around the earth once." -Obama


Romney moved the conversation to him being a more pro-energy President, putting Obama on the defensive. Obama, still on the defensive, made a great case as to why he has been a pro-American energy president.  Then, Romney made the mistake of asking Obama an open ended question (debate 101 mistake), to which Obama came back and gave his case again. 

The key here for Obama is to continue to put Romney on the defensive. When he is on the defensive, he comes off weak, rude and cold.  Hence his statement "You'll have your chance, Obama."


I'm live blogging here at the Paley Center surrounded by an audience of 150 generationally and ethnically diverse voters.

First things I notice:

Romney answers by moving forward, walking close to the audience and talking directly to Jeremy, with open hands, stating that he'll bring jobs when he becomes president. Good visual connectivity.  Obama, doing the same, seems a bit jittery with "speech hands" (closed fists that are not welcoming) but clearly states his case in HOW he'll bring jobs through education and manufacturing. The President also goes on the offensive stating that while he was betting on the automotive industry, Romney wanted it to go bankrupt.

Rebuttal from Romney: He first (accidentally?) agreed with Obama's statement and went into his confusing reasoning saying that Obama let the automotive industry go bankrupt, but we Americans didn't understand that.

Obama rebuttal: Comes back and says what Romney says isn't true, then proves that it isn't by showing how he doesn't have a 5 point plan, but a 1 point plan investing in only the wealthy.  Big laughs from the audience.



It’s game time for President Obama. There are two debates left for him to outperform not just Mitt Romney, but 2008 Barack Obama. It may be a cliché, but the obstacles are bigger and the hill is steeper today for the president than it was for him in 2008. 

It’s “debatable” whether debates matter in modern day politics. But we’re entering a post-modern political era — a time when it is increasingly difficult for a presidential candidate to get his message out without being filtered, when a candidate must push through a saturated news ecosystem to keep his story on the nation’s radar. 

The 2012 debates offer both candidates the opportunity to do two things.

Firstly, the candidates can show Americans the side-by-side difference between them. Secondly, they can utilize the only moment in a campaign when voters on all sides are tuning in live to listen to the candidates’ unfiltered and un-spun messages.

President Obama, who has the bigger burden in this race, must capitalize on this opportunity. (See my point-by-point analysis below.) While there is a tendency for the Obama administration to cast the blame in messaging of their policy changes on the press and modern day media situation, in the first debate the president failed to use one of his few chances to speak directly to voters, showing what he’s accomplished and what path we are on for the future.

With two more debates, the president will need to step it up. Tonight’s town hall debate should b called a town hall "conversation" with voters.  The setting gives both candidates the chance to be human, practicing retail politics. They will both need to relate and connect to the audience asking the questions, steering clear of dictating statistics and complicated policy and explaining by showing how they plan on solving their problems.

While this may sound simple, both candidates have had difficulty loosening up and relating to the voters they need to engage. If I were consulting either of the candidates, I would bring in a theater and an improv teacher who could coach them about “getting out of their heads” and being present in the moment. What the audience sees (and, more importantly, feels) is not how much a candidate knows — but how much that candidate cares.

While both candidates are focusing on proving to the American people how much the other doesn’t care about them, neither have shown that they care more. Let that be the focus in tonight's town hall debate.

Ignore everything about the 2012 election prior to today. Before this point, ignore every poll, every positive and negative ad, every gaffe, because none of it matters. Now, 21 days before the election, is when our presidential candidates’ actions matter. This is when those highly sought after swing voters will be influenced and decided. This is when Romney and Obama need to be on their A games.

Up until today, the candidates have spent their time cultivating their bases, winning their party’s nomination, building momentum, and of course, fundraising.  $1.25 billion dollars (in combined candidate fundraising and outside group fundraising) has been spent building the Romney and Obama brands.  Another $1.25 billion will be spent in the next three weeks to cross the finish line and win the remaining undecided voters. Read that again: $1.25 billion dollars will be spent in three weeks to win 12% of voters. (And another $3.25 billion on Congressional races.)

Here we are, 21 months into the election, and Romney and Obama are exactly where they started —  tied in a dead heat to influence that 12% that will tip them over the edge.

Going into this final round — the round that matters — who has the advantages and disadvantages?  Who has the burden to overcome? And how do they overcome it?

And what actually influences those swing voters versus base voters? 

While incumbent presidents already have the leg up in a race, President Obama has the bigger burden to overcome. Here's why: 


Romney may not be raising as much money as President Obama on his campaign right now, but he comes in with a conservative superPAC buffer, which is out-raising progressive (liberal) superPACs 5:1 Get ready because superPACs are about to unleash their negative ad-buying fury, and conservative superPACs will be doing the majority of the ad buying.

2) The Economy

The country still feels the hangover from the recession and Romney is tapping into the country’s vulnerabilities, as he should continue to do. Romney can use his messaging money to put Obama on the defensive and paint President Obama as a failure who hasn't made the country "feel better." 

3) Negative Messaging

The 12% of swing voters that need to be persuaded, are swayed more by negative attack ads than positive ads, says messaging guru and pollster Frank Luntz. Since conservatives have more money to buy these ads, and their focus is on attacking the state of the economy and blaming it on President Obama, they have the leg up.

4) Obama's Record

Although the Obama administration has gotten us out of the recession, moved unemployment below 8%, pushed the passing of health care reform and killed Osama Bin Laden, the president has struggled with messaging his policy successes to voters — especially the 12% of undecideds who disproportionately feel “disappointed” in the president’s performance, thus hurting his incumbency advantage. To win, he has a bigger burden to overcome winning back swing voters who once trusted him with their votes. And he must do so with only one-fifth of the superPAC money that will influence those voters. 

5) The Policy Narrative

The president has no choice but to change the narrative. When Romney attacks him, the president should never, ever act defensive or ignore the attack. He must practice the art of spin, taking Romney’s words and flipping them over in his favor. Most importantly, President Obama needs to clearly show America the difference between him and Mitt Romney. 

The president must show America that he felt and understood the pains caused by President Bush’s failure at managing the economy and their tax dollars, that he spent every moment of his presidency fighting to get us to this point, just past the recession with unemployment back down to 7.8%. There is still work to do.

Obama must ask voters:

Do you want a president who understands your pain and the policies that will fix our problems, or do you want a president who has been wealthy since birth and only listens to his fat cat friends?

Obama is great at saying these things stumping on the trail, but again, none of that matters. To counter the influx of negative ads, he and his team need to hammer this message home during the remaining debates.

6)The Narrative Strategy

Obama must clearly articulate, through stories, how bad it was when he entered office, what his administration has done to get us out of that hole, and what we are in the process of achieving to make our country prosperous again.

7)Obama's Course

Obama must steer the debate. With the financial power (and messaging purchase power) in Romney’s hands, he must use the power of his presidency to steer the course of the debate.

8)Attack Response

Attacks sway swing voters (note: not all voters). President Obama must rise above attacks, be bold and change the narrative by focusing on the future he's creating for America.

The big question we political enthusiasts must ask ourselves is: will we allow money or leadership dictate this election?

Mitt Romney, sadly, does not need to be on his "A game" given the outside advantages he has in this game.  President Obama, once labeled as Superman, needs to channel his inner 2008 candidate, but on steroids. 

The only way for President Obama to counter the power of pricey negative attack ads in the final hours, is to remind the country why he was the candidate of hope and change, and invite Americans to hear the story of how he delivered that change. It’s a tough feat for Obama. Then again, every once in a while, those negative ads backfire ... we can only “hope” for that!