Barack Obama may have come out swinging hard, but the second presidential debate of 2012 was no game-changer. That was the opinion of three seasoned professors and pollsters who talked to Human Events moments after the close of the stormy encounter between Obama and Mitt Romney Tuesday at Hofstra University in New York Tuesday evening.
If there were any inroads made Tuesday among the voters who are still “undecided” at this point, the three political authorities agreed, they were made by Romney with his strong underscoring of a new policy on the economy.
“I didn’t see the debate tonight as a game-changer – not at all,” G. Terry Madonna, public policy professor and veteran pollster at Pennsylvania’s Franklin and Marshall University, told Human Events, “Yes, Obama was much better and more aggressive than in the first debate. But will it change any polls? Probably not. I just don’t this as a performance that will shake up the race. There was no bombshell.
Madonna, whose polling and analysis have made him a familiar fixture on Keystone State news programs for decades, said that “Romney’s answer on Libya was not very strong. He should have just said unequivocally that in his statement in the Rose Garden following the (U.S. deaths in Libya), the President did not call this an ‘act of terror.’”
However, he added, “if Romney did have a strong moment when he connected with undecided voters, it would have to be with his answers on the economy and on energy. But as to whether this will move those voters in a big way, I don’t see it. This was not as important as the first debate was.”
Madonna specifically criticized the town hall format for the Hofstra debate as “a disaster” and predicted there would now “be a huge debate on (moderator) Candy Crowley’s role as a fact-checker.”
Historian David Pietrusza, author of three much-praised books on U.S. presidential campaigns, predicted “there will be a moderate movement to Romney among ‘undecided’ voters based solely on the economy. The largest percentage of Tweets – 29 percent – was on the economy, and Romney owned that issue.”
Pietrusza emphasized that Romney was at his best when the questions were on economic issues. As he told us, “Romney performed very effectively in reminding voters of the misery inflicted on the nation in the last four years – unemployment, inflation, the deficit, energy. This time Romney is ‘change.’ Obama is ‘same old, same old.’
“But Obama gained steam at end when Libya came up. Romney was blithering on assault weapons and weaker overall when the discussion moved away from the economy.”
Henry Payne, editor of the “Michigan View” that is considered ‘must reading’ for political activists and pundits in his state, agreed. Payne felt that “Obama was clearly trying to turn this debate back on to things such as Romney’s wealth, things that were dominant before the first televised debate finally brought the campaign back to issues.. But every time questions came up in this debate on the economy or gas prices, Romney reminded people ‘you’re hurting’ and this played into his hands.”
Did Romney gain ground among undecided voters? Payne feels he did because, “as he did in the first debate, Romney talked a lot about how he worked with Democrats while governor of Massachusetts and struck a bipartisan tone. Independent voters, who comprise a lot of the ‘undecideds,’ clearly love that kind of talk. Obama, on the other hand, was talking class warfare and going on the attack on Romney’s wealth. You can clearly see tonight who people would consider the candidate more likely to unify the country when the campaign is over.”