(Providence, Rhode Island) - I am now home after covering the second Presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York (see photo). One more debate to go and lots of polling, as we are just over two weeks away from the election. Here are my weekly observations:
“Still a Toss-Up” – Despite all the fanfare for this poll or that poll, this race is still very much up for grabs. The latest Real Clear Politics average of all recent polls has it 47.0 percent for President Obama, to 47.0 percent for Governor Romney. Assuming that 3 percent will go to third-party candidates, it looks as if the approximately 3 percent undecided voters out there will decide this race.
“Trending Romney”- The Electoral College map lists nine battleground states that are very close right now. If you simply total all the states - based on who is ahead in the average polling of each - you get Obama 278 to Romney 260. Prior to the debates, Romney had 206 Electoral votes safely in his column. Only one-of-nine battleground states favored him - that being North Carolina. He has now pulled ahead in Florida, Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia.
“On, Wisconsin?” – Let’s assume the Obama 278 to Romney 260 estimate is correct. Right now, Wisconsin and its 10 Electoral Votes are in the Obama column, but it is close. If the Badger State flips to Romney, he wins the Electoral College 270 to 268. Is Wisconsin “the” state this time around, as Florida was in 2000 and Ohio, in 2004? Stay tuned!
“Broken Record? – By the way, my Electoral College math in “On, Wisconsin?” assumes that Romney loses Ohio. So, yes, it is now possible for Romney to lose Ohio, but still win the election. No Republican in modern history has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. This election may break that streak.
“Debate 3” – I bet Libya will dominate at least half the final debate. I knew the other night, when I left Hofstra University and the second debate, that the Libya controversy was not over and had not been addressed sufficiently by either candidate. They could spend at least 20 or 30 minutes -and maybe even longer - on this foreign issue alone.
“A Big Turn-Off?” – Viewership has remained high in all three debates so far, but will people tune in for debate number four? Monday Night Football will be on at the same time, and there could be a major league baseball playoff game. Then there is the debate topic of foreign affairs. Polls consistently tell us people tend to care far less about what happens overseas versus the U.S. domestic economy. So, there could be a huge tune-out Monday night. I am still optimistic, though. The election is close; public interest has been high; and so, too, has been debate viewership thus far. This could be the most-watched final debate ever, or it could be a huge bust. We’ll see.
“Put Me in, Coach!” – If I were coaching President Obama, I would tell him to remind people (and do it more that once in this debate) that the world is a safer place now that Osama bin Laden has been killed. I think the President also needs to acknowledge that mistakes were made in Libya by his administration. The public is much more forgiving than we think. If he acknowledges the mistakes and promises to investigate and correct them, it’s better than letting the story change as many times as it already has. If I were coaching Governor Romney, I would say he must hammer the President relentlessly on Libya. He needs to do it in a timeline, explaining “who said what” in the days after the attack. Romney missed that opportunity in the last debate, because he was too fixated on the President’s remarks the day following the attack. Romney needs to connect the dots. Now, my advice to both candidates is to make these points in the first half-hour of the debate, because after that viewers tune out. The quarter-hour between 9:15 and 9:30 EDT has consistently had the highest number of viewers in the debates thus far.
“It’s Still the Economy, Stupid!” – Bill Clinton’s old line still rings true. Yes, I know this is supposed to be a foreign policy debate, but each candidate must show how foreign policy affects our economy. This can’t be a professorial lecture on the intricacies of foreign affairs. They need to talk about how foreign policy affects prices at the gas pump; how the trade imbalance prevents us from exporting more goods and leads to job layoffs in the U.S.; and how selling our debt to foreign countries makes us less secure economically. Unless each man can connect foreign policy to your purse or wallet, the debate could fall on deaf ears.
As always, I welcome your comments, questions and quibbles! Click the comment button on www.MarkCurtisMedia.com