Liberals, Get Over Obama’s Debate Debacle
It’s pretty hard for an unindicted candidate to depress his or her own base while exciting the base of their opponent. Yet in one night, President Obama was able to do just that. His unexpectedly horrendous debate performance has made the commentator class suddenly doubt his chances for re-election. The New York Daily News columnist and ultra-conservative blogger Jim Geraghty asked the question gripping hyperventilating Democrats and liberals alike in his Monday column “Why Obama is Crumbling?”. The simple answer to this is that he isn’t, at least not yet anyways.
It is true that the national polls show a dead heat between President Obama and Mitt Romney (Gallup on Monday showed the President ahead by 5 percent, Rasmussen a tie and Pew Research a Romney lead of 5 percent). But anyone who knows anything about politics knows that those polls are, in a close race, meaningless. The polls one should look out for are state-by-state polls, and they have been telling a very different post-debate story.
The President’s standing among independent and moderate voters has remained essentially unchanged. In fact, Rasmussen shows Obama pulling ahead in swing-states like Iowa and Colorado since the debate. Several polling organizations, like Gravis Marketing — which shows Obama trailing behind Romney among African Americans in Colorado by 17 points — show significant gains for the Romney campaign. But such results either make these polls irrelevant or shockingly, and I mean shockingly, prophetic.
In Virginia and Wisconsin, PPP has Obama leading Romney with moderates with 60 percent and 63 percent of their votes respectively; prior to the debate, Obama led Romney with moderates in Virginia and Wisconsin with 60 percent and 64 percent respectively. Nor was there a huge influx a support for Romney from undecided moderates. In both states, Romney’s support from moderates only ticked up slightly from the low to mid-30s. The lesson to be drawn from this: moderate voters either did not watch the debate or they simply do not care.
Nor did Mitt Romney make across the board gains among voters who claim to be ‘very conservative.’ While right-wing support for the Republican appears to have solidified in Wisconsin, very conservative Virginia voters have barely moved. Prior to the debate, Romney led Obama among very conservative Virginias 82 to 16 percent; today, PPP shows Romney leading Obama among very conservative Virginians 84 to 13 percent.
So where did Romney’s ‘surge’ in these states come from? It comes from voters who claim to be ‘very liberal.’ Prior to the debate, very liberal voters in Virginia and Wisconsin supported the President almost 9 to 1 over Mitt Romney, according to PPP; post-debate polls in these states now show the President with a 4:1 lead over Romney. In both states, Obama is doing better with voters who identify as being ‘somewhat liberal’ than he is with very liberal voters.
If this seems like a bizarre arrangement, it’s because it is. Have very liberal voters suddenly decided that Mitt Romney — a candidate who categorized his term as Governor of Massachusetts as “severely conservative” — would be better for their causes than a Democratic President who supports gay marriage and passed health care reform? Or maybe they have just figured that Romney has pandered to every group but them, so their turn must be next.
In no conceivable universe is Barack Obama, in a head-to-head matchup with Mitt Romney, doing better among center-left voters than he is among far-left voters. It is not happening. The only way that these results make sense is if very liberal voters are blowing off steam. Some of the most critical judgments of the President’s debate performance came from liberal commentators like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Ed Shultz and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.
Granted, these are only two statewide polls. PPP could be witnessing isolated anomalies that do not reflect the rest of the country. Nor is there any reason to assume that ‘very liberal’ voters won’t go back to the Obama fold. But if a minority of liberals are in fact the reason for the tightening of the race, they are only exacerbating their anxieties and harming their own political interests. They are giving the Republicans a narrative of a tightening race that never was by injecting an irritating media feedback loop for the duration of this week’s news cycle.
Liberals, who demand that conservatives grow up — a worthy demand if there ever was one — need to do the same. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are still the same people with the same positions, though the latter may not apply to Romney. If liberals can’t get their heads around this, then they will soon discover that a bad election night and a bad four years are far worse than a bad debate.
Associate Editor James Sunshine is a College senior from Boca Raton, Fla.